MCB chief: Iftar community gatherings are an opportunity to ‘join hearts, unite society’

LONDON: The holy month of Ramadan is a social occasion and iftar meals that bring people from all walks of life together are an opportunity to “join hearts”, the head of the Muslim Council of Britain said on Saturday.

Speaking to Arab News at an iftar hosted by UKIM Masjid Ibrahim & Islamic Center in east London, MCB General Secretary Zara Mohammed said communities “can achieve so much more” when they unite.

The iftar was attended by over 300 people from the local community and guest speakers included Mohammed, Newham Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz, local MP Stephen Timms and London Assembly Member Unmesh Desai.

Women and children break their fast at the UKIM Masjid Ibrahim & Islamic Center in east London on April 16, 2022. (AN Photo)

“It’s a great example of what unity looks like and how much more we can achieve when we come together, because if everyone is here in the mosque to share a meal, as friends , community and family, this is the best way to reach hearts,” said the Secretary General.

After a two-year hiatus, British Muslims are once again observing Ramadan without any COVID-19 restrictions.

The practices usually observed during Ramadan, such as communal iftar meals, tarawih prayers and visits to family and friends, have now resumed.

Mohammed visited Muslim communities across the country during Ramadan and attended iftar meals in Liverpool, Rochdale, Oldham and London.

“Now that the COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, it is important to meet people, especially during the most blessed month of Ramadan. In Islam, Ramadan is a social occasion – it’s meant to be done together. So I’m really happy that I was able to be here today and share something of what I learned with everyone,” she said.

Mohammed praised the mosque for its service to the local community and its “spirit of giving, sharing, learning and being open so that people can understand us”.

She described the community building work that UKIM Masjid Ibrahim has done during the pandemic as “truly exceptional”.

UKIM Masjid Ibrahim & Islamic Center in east London runs a food bank for those in need in the local community. (@MasjidIbrahimUK)

Although the mosque was closed to worshipers during government-mandated closures, Masjid Ibrahim, like hundreds of mosques across the UK, was busy running a food bank for the needy, running pop-up vaccination clinics to encourage people to get stung and to provide much-needed free funeral services.

“I think the work that Masjid Ibrahim did during the pandemic was really exceptional. I know, behind the scenes, it was a 24/7 engagement, and they were also going through a pandemic. They had families, they had responsibilities, but they dropped off food for people and had conversations. They ensured that while the mosque was closed to the public, the facilities, work, funerals, mourning and support continued,” Mohammed said.

People wait to be bitten against COVID-19 at the UKIM Masjid Ibrahim & Islamic Center in east London. (File/@MasjidIbrahimUK)

UKIM Masjid Ibrahim continues to run a food bank which feeds more than 500 families a week at a time when UK inflation has hit a 30-year high of 7%.

The mosque also offers free iftar meals to people of all faiths and none in the local Newham community during the holy month.

Sara H. Byrd