The British Bank Holiday is a notoriously slow news day. Unless an untoward sighting of a royal backside occurs, hapless journalists are tied to their telephones in half empty offices hoping for a story to emerge. If the sun is shining and their spouses are burying their children in sand on British beaches, the misery of their Babylonian captivity is heightened.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar which is based on the lunar system. Muslims fast for 29/30 days by abstaining from food, drink, nourishment and sexual relations from dawn to sunset. Fasting is the fourth pillar of Islam and it is an obligation upon all Muslims, who have reached puberty. However, certain people such as the ill or frail; pregnant and menstruating women; breast feeding mothers, children and travellers are exempt from fasting. They are allowed to defer their fasts until a later date, or if they are unable to fast they are required to give a determined sum to charity. Muslims begin their fast at dawn with a meal known as Suhoor and break their fast at sunset with a meal known as Iftar.
Identity is a funny thing. A person can believe themselves to be x, believe it so strongly that it consumes them and radically alters the way that they behave. They can change their appearance to reflect the being that they wish themselves to be, they can announce to the world that they simply ARE x, and they can even convince others that it is the case. Does this make it true?
There were a fair few column inches devoted to a ruling in a German court that circumcision for non-medical reasons is an assault, and interferes with a child's right to determine his own religion. A number of commentators have said that the ruling amounts to some form of religious persecution against the Jewish and Muslim populations in the country, but in my opinion the courts are absolutely bloody right.
The longer I live and explore a spiritual life the easier it gets. When I started off my adventures I visited a dozen or so different faiths and I got down and dirty with the meditation, the praying, the mantras. I had the patter and the pose, but none of it felt right. Some of it felt convoluted or ridiculous. Most of it didn't quite fit, it was someone else's story, someone else's journey.
I am a Christian and will remain so. This means that there are certain beliefs I hold dear. But I can, without reducing my Christian commitment, surely accept that someone else, brought up in a different tradition, holds a different set of beliefs, holds them as strongly as I hold mine, and I can respect that person and his/her right to believe as he/she does.
Over the last few decades, the steady immigration of Muslims from around the world to America and across Europe, has thrown the spotlight on the hijab. Many Americans and Europeans are surprised to find that contrary to what they believe, a large number of Muslim women do not wear the hijab out of compulsion but out of choice.