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RAMADAN MUSINGS: Ramadan Beyond Muslims

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A dancer spins skirt as he performs Sufi dance at a night show marking the holy fasting month of Ramadan, in Old Cairo, Egypt

Asian Lite marks Holy Month of Ramadan with a special series of Ramadan Musings

with Masarat Daud

 A dancer spins skirt as he performs Sufi dance at a night show marking the holy fasting month of Ramadan, in Old Cairo, Egypt
A dancer spins skirt as he performs Sufi dance at a night show marking the holy fasting month of Ramadan, in Old Cairo, Egypt

At a dinner recently, a friend spent five minutes ranting on the oppression of Ramadan and the inconvenience for non-Muslims to conform to the rules of Ramadan. I then receive a message from another non-Muslim friend who had lived in an Arab country and has recently moved to Canada. She said she feels terribly homesick seeing the Ramadan posts on social media; she did not fast but this month has become integral to her memories of home.

It was mutual respect, where my many non-Muslim friends have fond memories of this time of the year, just as I had greedily treasured the platter of Diwali sweets that would arrive from the neighbour’s house.

I asked my non-Muslim friends to share with me their memories of Ramadan and reading them brought a smile to my face.

Ramadan MusingsSyeba Bal who lives in Australia reminisces the Indian sweet shop owners in Dubai frying their fresh sweets in a large pot, sizzling in the oil, before the call to prayer. It remains an endearing memory of Ramadan for her.

“Getting Iftar snacks in a large platter from our Pakistani neighbor was a Ramadan highlight for me. Our neighbor had three daughters and all of them were exceptional cooks. I looked forward to Ramadan just for this!” adds Nitin Jaggi.

James McBennett has fond memories of Ramadan too. Growing up in an Arab country and now shuttling between Ireland and London, he still has dinners with Muslim friends during Ramadan. Connecting over food during this month, “especially during my time at Goodenough College, which is very multi-cultural and my favorite place in the world. There, Jews attend Ramadan events and Muslims attend Hanukkah or Shabbat. I attended both!”

Another British friend, an aid worker who has travelled extensively in Middle East and North Africa remembers a Ramadan spent in Cairo a few years ago. When the mosques sounded the evening call to prayer, she was at the traffic lights and men threw dates and water into her car—for free. She also laughs at many humorous moments when colleagues who were fasting would have mood swings and a change of behavior because of the hunger pangs!

Kathy Ward has fond memories of Iftar in Dhaka, particularly the sight of the hoards of garment factory workers heading home in groups in time for Iftar. This shared sense of a community feeling that transcends religions and other differences is a very special aspect of Ramadan.

(Masarat Daud is many things. A girl’s education campaigner, a TED speaker, a TEDx curator, a recent SOAS MA graduate and a politically-incorrect humourist currently based in London.)

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