New London Mayor Sadiq Khan is hoping to break down the "mystique and suspicion" around Islam as he begins fasting alongside millions of Muslims around the world this month.
Khan recorded a video in which he extended his best wishes to all for a peaceful and blessed Ramadan, which began on Monday.
He said: “This will be my first Ramadan as the Mayor of London. I look forward to using the opportunity to bring together all communities across our great city.”
“London’s greatest strength is our diversity. We don’t just respect each other. We celebrate our backgrounds and traditions. Ramadan is a time to cherish family, friends and faith. As Muslims come together each day to open their fast, it’s a time for contemplation for our friends and neighbours who are less fortunate.”
The mayor will be breaking his fast and hosting Ramadan meals (iftar) around the city at synagogues, churches and mosques.
Fasting Muslims do not eat during daylight hours and pray throughout the day and night. Fasting is seen as a way to physically and spiritually detoxify through exercising self-restraint.
The month-long event is determined by a lunar calendar and moves backwards 12 days each year, which means this year it falls during the warmer summer months.
Blogging for the Guardian, Khan points out this means a lot of these fasts mean devotees will be going without food and water for up to 19 hours – a prospect he admits is “scary”.
Without a trusty cup of coffee by his side, he also warned he would be “miserable” during Ramadan – though he quipped: “Some would say I’m miserable all year round, but it does affect my mood.”
He added: “… As Ramadan starts, I’m aware that it’s a great opportunity to do things in the community and break down the mystique and suspicion around the religion.
“If you’re someone who doesn’t have Muslim friends and your only experience of Islam is what you see on the news – the angry man with a beard doing or saying something terrible – then you may inadvertently associate that with Islam and think that is what it’s all about.”
Indeed dispelling this negative image of Islam is a cause dear to Khan’s heart.
The father-of-two has already thrown down the gauntlet and offered American Presidential hopeful a personal tour of the city to show him how much Muslims are part of mainstream British life.
In an interview with HuffPost UK, Khan said he wanted to to educate the “ignorant” billionaire by introducing him to his family and others of Islamic faith in the UK.
He said that his mission was to prove to Trump that Muslims were not the “bad people” he saw on the TV news and were instead crucial in the fight against extremism.
Khan, who rejected Trump’s offer to exempt him from a ban on Muslim travel to the United States, also stressed that both the UK and the US had seen “huge benefits” from immigration.
The Mayor, who will still be fasting when the European Referendum takes place on 23 June, added: “Part of me doing this is to show that it is possible to be someone with western, liberal values and be a mainstream Muslim. My election on 5 May proved that London believes you can do both at the same time.”
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