The East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre hosted an interfaith Iftar on Wednesday 22 June 2016. Guests included interfaith leaders, journalists, the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, and members of the UK and European parliaments, who joined members of the Mosque for the breaking of the fast. Together they contemplated recent world events, including remembrance of Jo Cox MP, and how people could give support to Syrian refugees.

The event was chaired by Dilowar Khan, executive director, of the Mosque and Centre. The Mosque’s chairman, Habibur Rahman, welcomed and presented the history of the Mosque and Centre to guests.

Meaning of Ramadan

Shafiur Rahman, a trustee of the Mosque, explained the meaning of Ramadan:

“Most people will tell you what the purpose of fasting is: feeling empathy with the poor and the less fortunate around the world; increasing in giving charity to help others. But I want to talk about the central purpose of fasting [during Ramadan]. When we remove the layers of economics, politics and social circumstances, and everything is stripped bare, what remains is the individual and their spiritual condition, the individual and their actions. The actions of the individual is often driven by the lower-self, including miserliness, treachery, greed; these are the real causes of plundering and oppression caused against others. The problems and injustices that we see around us, they go back to the spiritual and psychological condition of man himself. All faith traditions throughout the ages, including Islam, have always called us to resist and to control our lower impulses.”

Reverend Alan Green, Chairman of the Tower Hamlets Interfaith Forum, said:

“It’s an honour to be here with my brothers and sisters, partaking in Ramadan and breaking the fast with Iftar. In Christianity we do have lent, the 40 days running up to Easter, and it is an opportunity similarly to take stock, and to think about our place within the world – very similar to the understanding of fasting with the Muslim tradition. Each and every one of us is a gift to this world; to our neighbours; to our families; to our community. Yet at the same time [look at] the havoc we can wreak in this world. We look at the last week and we feel horrified by the violence we have seen on our television screens, and of course we become quite inured to that violence that goes on day after day, in Syria, in Israel and Palestine. We do need those things to break through into our consciousness and to then use what we really affects us, not just to say what really affects us here, but across the world. If we are not careful we can become part of a world that carries out such awful things.”

Tributes to Jo Cox MP

Tributes were paid to Jo Cox MP, who was killed recently by a far-right extremist. The Mosque’s Chairman, Habibur Rahman, said:

“We are meeting at a momentous time. The referendum has generated quite a debate, and it’s been really good to see the discussions in our community. But it seems to have brought out both the best and the worst in people. The worst being all the scaremongering, deceiving and the politics of division and hate. Then we witnessed the horrific murder of Jo Cox, leading to the best coming out of people. What we saw in the nation and from everybody was unprecedented. People had so much admiration for Jo, clearly she had touched the hearts of so many.”

Journalist and author, Victoria Brittain, speaking about Jo Cox said:

“This was a young woman politician, who spoke out against injustice on so many fronts; that most in this room I’m sure relate to. One issue in particular that I relate to is about the arrest and detention of Palestinian children by the Israeli military and another that everybody will relate to that the myth that our country is under threat from refugees. I think her murder is a tragic illustration of how debased our political life has become in this country. Hate and fear have become default positions for too many politicians, and by this hate and fear attempt to manipulate us.”

Stephen Timms MP shared his thoughts:

“Some of you may remember the last MP to be attacked at their constituency surgery was me. The question always gets raised, should MPs have protection, etc. What I think is important in this discussion is that people should continue to be able to access their members of parliament. It’s really important in campaigning that we don’t do that which is designed to make one group of people angry with another. We have seen some of that in the referendum campaign – whether that had anything to do with the death of Jo Cox, I don’t know. There have been some campaigns that have been intended to whip up hostility and make people feel angry, when they weren’t previously feeling angry, and we should stand against this type of campaigning.”

Supporting Refugees

Tim Finch, advisor to the national refugee welcome board, said:

“What can we actually do in this refugee crisis? Of course, there are a number of things people can do – I’ve been up to Lesbos to help rescue people arriving there on that dangerous route. Other people have gone to the refugee camps and are helping there – just getting food and clothes to refugees. And of course, you can do things in this country – you can lobby, you can write articles and organise refugee welcome groups. There is one new aspect that is that bit more empowering, if you want to go further to do you bit in your locality to welcome refugees and its very much credit to the East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre, it is what is known as community sponsorship to help refugees.”

Jean Lambert, Member of European Parliament, said:

“What we’ve have been seeing across most of the European Union is particularly moving. Particularly if you think back to last summer, where we had considerable number of refugees from Syria. You saw to reactions; one is a spirit that I would love us to recapture of so many people being out there at the borders, offering water, food and support, and willing to take people to wherever they wanted to be. Then there was the other reaction, which was a close down. That these are not people like us and these are not people we are willing to welcome. Unfortunately and tragically we are still seeing this closedown. What we need is an understanding, that we do not lose our own values by welcoming these refugees that will in many ways strengthen our humanity.”

The Iftar event ended with the call to prayer and people breaking their fast together.


Notes to editors:

If you would like to donate to the Jo Cox fund set-up by her family and friends you can do so online here:

To help alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people and refugees, we urge our community to donate to the many charities that are working in this field.