Eid ul Fitr 2012 Message

19th August 2012

In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful.

A message from Julie Siddiqi, Executive Director

Like most people I look forward to the day of Eid with excitement while at the same time feeling sad that Ramadan has once again come to an end. Looking at Ramadan from the outside in, it can be hard for people to imagine why we get so absorbed by it all, but Ramadan is such a wonderful time of community and family time, alongside an intensely personal and spiritual time of reflection.

This month of mercy may have ended, but across the world, so many continue to go hungry, to be persecuted, to be stripped of their right to live in peace, and to suffer, when in a fairer world, they would not. The sights of suffering families we saw as we fasted in Burma, Syria and elsewhere has weighed heavily on our hearts. We cannot and must not cut off our human family from our thoughts, prayers or action, wherever in the world they live.

This Ramadan my family has, like so many, been enjoying the spectacle of the Olympic Games. An amazing showcase of dedication and commitment shown by men and women from the world over. It was also the first time women competed from all countries, which is something to note and celebrate even if such opportunities remain far from fair in, let’s admit it, too many Muslim majority countries. But not so in our own country. We were able to showcase not only our position on equality but also our quirky side, our togetherness and how we muck in and get on with life, come rain or shine.

And of course, Team GB has brought a real sense of pride to the country. How fantastic was it that one of the highlights for most people was seeing Mohamed Farah win two gold medals spectacularly for his country. He is a wonderful example for young and old to take inspiration from – and let’s not forget those repeated debates on integration too.

I do not want to dwell on a matter anymore than necessary, but it remains important to note how the London Olympics was testimony to just how right we do have it in our country. It was in many ways society’s colossal answer to the different faces of rejectionists, be they of nationalist or Islamic colouring, and let us never forget the act of terrorism against civil society that took place in London the day after we had won the bid to host these Olympics. An act that killed 52 people and injured many more, including my dear friend and supporter Gill Hicks who was  nominated as a Torchbearer… but an act which wholly failed in disrupting our sense of national community or, to use more traditional Islamic terminology, our sense of national ummah.

These games, whilst celebrating our shared histories and values, were about young people, and I really do hope many families turn to the positive force that is sport. We are so lucky to have these opportunities – but it does take us to go out and make things happen. The Quran is full of reminders of the fruits of patiently persevering, disciplined habits and seeking knowledge. Sport represents all of this too, and I believe it can be a complementary force in attaining stronger faith. Look at how many times we witnessed athletes who, on crossing the finishing line after hours, days and months of dedication, made a personal prayer of some kind.

This Ramadan, I have seen so many amazing projects led by Muslims all over the country. It was a privilege to work with others on the Ramadan Festival this year. The Prophet Muhammad, may God bless him and grant him peace, led the way in showing us to live a life of service to others. People around him loved him for his generosity and respect towards people, young and old, men and women, Muslim and not. During the month, I have seen so many examples of service in action: Iftar dinners with the homeless; collecting food for poorer families with organisations like FoodBank; mosques opening their doors to share fast-breaking meals with the local community; and working across faiths on initiatives like A Year of Service.

At the Islamic Society of Britain we also raised money for four mainstream charities this year. The amounts we raised were actually very modest but in doing so we are looking to set the agenda for more serious discussions around much more money being raised in charity for a more diverse range of causes within and across Britain itself – beyond and in addition to charitable money for Muslim causes and for relief work overseas. We hope what we have started in a small way will yield much larger dividends over the years.

The road ahead is paved with financial difficulties, affecting household and government spending alike. It is not going to be easy. There are challenges of different kinds ahead, including challenges in religious thought. But I remain optimistic. It’s what the Quran we have been reading throughout the month has been teaching us: to have hope, to have faith, to believe in the good in people, to work for a fairer social existence. Teachings that chime with the three words that embody what the Olympic games are about: friendship, respect, and excellence.

And so we keep calm and carry on.

I wish you and your families a wonderful and blessed Eid.

Julie Siddiqi

Executive Director, Islamic Society of Britain