Best moment from this week’s PMQs
Best moment from this week’s PMQs
To borrow a phrase from Regina George, stop trying to make Ramadan happen. It’s not going to happen.
Britain is in a hot mess, collapsing under occasional spells of self-awareness. Meanwhile, against this backdrop of uncharacteristically sweaty chaos, the UK’s Muslims plough on with their fasting amid the most unforgiving timings since the summer of 1980. They close their fast at 3.15am and open it at 11.15pm, but it can be longer and later. Glaswegian Muslims can begin their fast at 2.13am, finish it by 9.54pm and head for taraweeh prayers at 11.30pm. In Dewsbury, suhoor is at 1.30am and iftar is at 9.30pm, leaving just a wafer thin window to eat, drink and pray. Perish the thought that there should be a standard fasting time (SFT) to make things easier, because rows about Ramadan schedules are as much of a calendar fixture as the holy month itself.
So while the interminable hours of sunshine can prove challenging there are enough ruses aimed at making Ramadan 2013 more tolerable than Ramadan 2012. Pakistanis have the opportunity to share a television studio with the smooth talking television hottie Amir Liaquat, but us Britishers have supermarket bargains and arbitrary, dare I say opportunistic marketing at our fingertips. Ready made parathas? Yes please! Discounted butter? I’ll have some of that! Because nothing says fard like keenly priced fat.
Of course my favourite random but seasonal offer is the Ramadan special on Brazilian and Hollywood waxing that is currently available at my local beauty salon. There are no details about what is “special” or “Ramadan” about this service, except the price. So that doesn’t make it “Ramadan” at all, just cheaper. It is also unclear whether this offer is restricted to Muslims or whether everyone – atheists included – are free to take advantage of this offer.
For all the buzz about Ramadan 2013 and increasing discussions about whether it is becoming too commercialised, the holy month is proceeding as normal. The last hour of the day always feels like the longest, khajoor are never enough because it is the fatty fried foods that always and miraculously fill the gap, the gym feels like a world away and the absence of meals during daylight hours leaves individuals with more free time than is conceivably possible.
Not even a stunt – sorry, a programming initiative - from a national television network to broadcast the adhaan was enough to shake up the general bemusement or indifference that greets the onset of Ramadan every year. After a flurry of initial coverage in the Western media the press and public interest tails off as it is generally accepted that Ramadan is not like other holy days or holidays because a) it lasts for a month b) the experience is not uniform and c) it lasts for a month.
So if non-Muslims can get a few pounds off their weekly shopping until the first week of August because their Muslim neighbours are abstaining from the consumption of food and drink between sunrise and sunset then so be it: the favour is returned when Muslims are seeking out value for money Easter eggs, mince pies and scary masks.
While it is to the credit of businesses and the media for engaging in an event that has significance for many, their altruism should not be overestimated. Ramadan, like Christmas, Halloween and Diwali, is another opportunity to build a brand and make some money. There is plenty of merit in explaining what it is - although a search engine would do the job - but it is OK for Ramadan to only make sense to Muslims. The existence of Now That’s What I Call Ramadan Volume 1 and Ramadan memes are proof of this. It’s a sign of progress when you have in-jokes about your community - Muslims have GIFS. What’s not to like?
It has yet to be convincingly argued why there should be a buy-in from wider society, especially when the main messages about the holy month appear to focus on retail promotions or free grub. If you’re using a BOGOF on yoghurt or a mosque buffet to persuade people to take a deeper interest in your faith then a return to the drawing board is recommended.