Ramadan in lockdown

28 April 2020

Tim Dieppe comments on how the media has addressed the Muslim festival of Ramadan during lockdown.

Ramadan started on Thursday 23 April this year and will continue to Saturday 23 May. Fasting in Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. During this period, devout Muslims are expected to fast from all eating and drinking during daylight hours. Muslims engaging in this fast will get up to eat and drink before dawn – the Suhoor – and will then share an evening meal – the Iftar – at sunset.

The Iftar is usually a social occasion shared with friends and family. This social aspect of Ramadan is one reason why more food is consumed by Muslims during Ramadan than at other times of the year. Lockdown is hindering the social aspect of Ramadan this year. The Muslim Council of Britain has put out a guide “Ramadan at Home” encouraging Muslims to follow government guidance on social distancing and to have Itfars at home or virtually.

BBC broadcasts Muslim reflections

The BBC announced that fourteen BBC local radio stations will broadcast Muslim prayers at 5:50am every Friday in the run up to Ramadan. This would have been a first for the BBC. The programme is called Islamic Reflections and involves an Islamic speaker sharing some reflections on the coronavirus crisis. In spite of how it was announced and discussed in the media, these programmes do not appear to involve any actual prayer. The Islamic call to prayer – or adhan – clearly proclaims that ‘Allah is greater’, and that ‘there is no God but Allah’. As the book Not the Same God makes clear, Allah is not the God of the Bible.

Lib Dem Itfar

The Liberal Democrat party decided to join Muslims in fasting on Saturday 25 April, describing it as “a significant display of solidarity,”  and inviting members to join in this act. I can find no evidence of the Liberal Democrats encouraging solidarity with Christians over Lent or Easter. One Liberal Democrat councillor enthusiastically participated in this fast and tweeted a picture of his breakfast before the fast which consisted of eggs and bacon. He attracted criticism for apparently not realising that Muslims do not eat bacon at any time of year, let alone in Ramadan.

Meanwhile, some Christian converts from Islam in Islamic countries will be pretending to fast during Ramadan so that they do not attract attention and then persecution. Is there any solidarity for them? We know that Christians are the most persecuted faith group in the world and that the dominant cause of persecution of Christians is Islamic oppression.

The ‘month of jihad’

Fundamentalist Muslims view Ramadan as the “month of jihad.” Just last year, an Egyptian Mufti said:

“Ramadan is a great month, the month of jihad. History demonstrates that no other month saw so many Islamic battles and victories as the month of Ramadan.”

He mentions key battles like the Battle of Badr and the conquest of Mecca which took place during the month of Ramadan. Many other radical Muslim leaders have openly described Ramadan in similar terms. For a more in depth discussion of the meaning of ‘Jihad’, and whether Islam should be described as a ‘religion of peace’ see my article Is Islam a Religion of Peace?

‘Islamophobia’ prevents debate

Last year the Liberal Democrats formally adopted the APPG definition of Islamophobia. This definition prohibits any criticism of “expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.” This means that there can be no debate in the Liberal Democrat party about the merits of Ramadan or of encouraging people to celebrate Ramadan. Any criticism of Ramadan or the practice of fasting during Ramadan would be deemed Islamophobic and thus prohibited.

Any criticism of Islamic practices or beliefs is out of bounds for Liberal Democrats, given their adoption of this definition of Islamophobia. If a Muslim were to suggest that all women should wear headscarves or face coverings, no Liberal Democrat could disagree – to do so would be Islamophobic as it would be criticising a perceived expression of Muslimness. This goes to show just how dangerous it is for political parties or others to adopt this definition.

Pray for Muslims in Ramadan

Muslims are missing out on the social gatherings they enjoy during Ramadan, much as Christians missed out on being able to gather to celebrate Easter. We should sympathise with this and use our compassion and sympathy to motivate prayer for Muslims.

There is a longstanding international prayer initiative to pray for Muslims during Ramadan – 30 days of prayer. You can sign up for email updates and there are prayer themes for each day.

Our Muslim friends need to know the forgiveness and love of Christ. It is inspiring to reflect that the fastest growing church in the world today is in Iran where Christians are aggressively persecuted. May we learn something from the faith and boldness of Christians suffering under Islamic persecution – including a passion to share the gospel whenever we have opportunity.

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