How smoke, it’s Ramadan again! I can’t believe it’s been a year since the last one. What’s changed?
I’ve moved house. For the first time I’m living alone. I don’t have to feel worried about waking up my non-Muslim flatmate when getting up to eat Sehri (the sunrise meal).
I am working from home. I have shifted my working pattern so it’s more conducive to the very long days. Fasts start at 2:45 and finish at 9:30. That’s 19 hours abstaining from one of my biggest pleasures – food and drink and the relief of not having to take the brunt of the rat race and the onslaught of coffee shops is something I am tremendously thankful for.
Today I’ve been thinking about how ashamed I’ve sometimes felt to publicly practice and talk about my religion. I know why this has happened. It’s the worry that I’ll be accused of being a terrorist. When I moved into my flat I thought long and hard about the curtains being open whilst I was praying in my front room. Think about it – a single Muslim man living alone and praying. I fit the media-portrayed profile. What would the neighbours say? I shouldn’t worry, but these things have crossed my mind after reading about men being kicked off planes and trains for uttering prayers that have invoked suspicion.
I suppose two things are slowly changing my own attitude towards this. The first is that I am finding new and interesting places to express my Muslim identity. The Inclusive Mosque Initiative is the first place I’ve found that is full of liberal Muslims. A place where women lead prayers and where your race, gender and sexuality don’t prohibit you from being a Muslim.
The second is that we have a Muslim mayor. I cannot understate how game changing it is to read articles like this from Sadiq Khan. To have someone else broadcasting what it’s like to be a liberal Muslim and working a day job makes me remember that although I’ve sometimes felt like the only one undertaking Ramadan, there are millions of other Muslims around the world doing the same. It reminds me of a quote by philosopher David Hume: “The life of man is of no greater importance to the universe than that of an oyster”. That’s something that Ramadan always reminds me. That no matter what my woe is, it is insignificant in comparison to the greater woes of the world and if anything, someone, somewhere else will have experienced the same.
It’s my intention this year to keep a daily diary of how the month is unfolding. I’m doing this in part to share the experience and in part so that I can look back in years to come to remember previous experiences. I still look back fondly on one of my first Huffington Post articles back on the first day of Ramadan back in 2013.
It’s always a little nerve wracking heading, but I’m hopeful, thankful and looking forward to the journey. I hope you’ll join me in it.