Words by Amillah Javed.
The Lord Mayor of Manchester, Naeem Ul Hassan, warmly invited me to open my fast with him on the evening of Thursday, 1st August, at Manchester’s Multifaith Centre.
As soon as I walked through the door, I was astonished to find so many people meeting and greeting, whilst also waiting for the fast to open. A number of Muslims, Jews and Christians were invited to share a meal after dawn and learn more about the Muslim experience of fasting during the most important month of Ramadan.
Ramadan comes in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and it is the month when the Holy Qu’ran was revealed to mankind. For this reason, people tend to pray regularly during this time.
The Interfaith Iftar was organised by Faith Network 4 Manchester—the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester and Manchester Christian and Muslim Forum—in order to allow Muslims, as well as Non-Muslims, to open their fast.
An “Iftar” is a meal Muslim’s eat after sunset during the period of Ramadan. This Iftar is one of many which is organised by the growing number of Interfaith groups within Manchester.
The Lord Mayor of Manchester told me how delighted he was to see so many people turn up at the Iftar, adding:
“It’s so great to see everyone here together for such a good cause. Faith groups and community cohesion is important in building positive relationships within the community.”
Former Lord Mayor of Manchester, Afzal Khan, was also present at the Iftar.
He began his speech by saying, “Namaste, Sat Sri Akaal, Assalamu’alaikum, Shalom and of course, Good Evening.” He used this in order to emphasise his point that Manchester is a remarkable city that has a great diversity of religions.
He also said, “There’s over 190 languages spoken in Manchester itself and there’s not many cities in the world which can boast about this. There are also 30+ Interfaith groups that are operating in Manchester itself today!”
As a result, one of the main messages of the night was to use opportunities whenever we can in order to bring people together to celebrate the diversity we have. According to Afzal Khan, “If we don’t do this, then clearly we are missing out!” Consequently, this allows us all to enrich our lives and have an interaction with one another, which brings a level of understanding between us”.
At 9pm when the fast opened the food was served immediately as a buffet; appropriate for the different faiths present at the Iftar. Thus, Halal food was available for Muslims and Kosher meat was prepared for the Jewish community.
It was also lovely bumping into Sherry Ashworth, a retired MMU lecturer who is also a reform Jew and belongs to the Manchester Reform Synagogue.
She cheerfully told me, “I’m very conscience that there are so many Muslim’s in Manchester going about their daily lives and I’ve been so greedy to get a glimpse inside a Muslim person’s life. It really shows how people live and to come here today and do something during Ramadan, which is the most special time for Muslims, is a privilege.”
Speaking to a Religious and Islamic student, Zunaira Amber, who is currently doing her PhD in Manchester, she told of the work she does with different communities in order to promote community cohesion. “My target is to try and find out the similarities between all religions. I really enjoy getting together like this and sharing views, because it allows us to get an insight into yourself, your religion, as well as other religions. You can also understand other religions better.” One of the most important messages she put across was that, “we should definitely find out the similarities between our religions when we are together, and we should accept the differences.”
She further addressed a significant point we might all consider: “We all are children of Adam, we all are cousins. We are all from the same parents, from Adam and Eve. So, we should try to work together and we should fight against cruelty, poverty and things like that, rather than wasting time and criticising each other.”
Amillah Javed is currently studying English and Film at Manchester Metropolitan University. She is passionate about journalism and teaching and hopes to pursue a career in one of these fields. Amillah also has an interest in writing creatively and having work published. Follow her on Twitter @a_amillah