The first #LibDemIftar
When I suggested the idea of #LibDemIftar to my Muslim and non-Muslim Liberal Democrat friends, I was given so much encouragement. The Muslim Council of Britain who have been leading the campaign #RamadanAtHome loved the idea and I had great support from the Liberal Democrat Diversity team at HQ.
#LibDemIftar was the first Iftar organised by a political party. This shows how this party has grown in its approach and diversity. It made me so very proud to be a Lib Dem.
I have organised interfaith Iftars for many years with charities - it encourages dialogue and friendship across all faiths and cultures. I was involved in the first ground-breaking interfaith Iftar in Lambeth Palace with the Chief Rabbi and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The Iftar is the meal at the end of the day when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, for the month of Ramadan. Many of our members have been to community Iftars before, but the Liberal Democrats are the first political party to organise one and have the first political leader to fast in Ramadan. It’s not always easy doing something different and progressive. It takes courage. You need to be brave when you’re the first. And this Party is brave.
Ed Davey, Layla Moran, Christine Jardine, and Siobhan Benita led the way to do something they had never done before. Something hard, something challenging. Fasting was not a requirement to take part in the Iftar - but something to experience in solidarity with Muslims who would be fasting in lockdown. None of the non-Muslims who took part had ever fasted before. Many of the activists and members who joined in all had varying results, some people lasted a few hours, some had water, some missed the pre-dawn meal, some had long naps. But it was so wonderful to see so many get involved and try. This wasn’t about being perfect - it was about learning.
During the day participants of the fast tweeted about their experiences. Ed Davey began with a video at 4am with his breakfast. Layla Moran showed her preference for Coco Pops! Diversity officers like Rachel Lee Mackenzie, found smelling coffee as a great alternative to drinking it. Claire Bonham GLA candidate from Croydon was missing her cuppa. Many participants also raised money for charities focussed on food hunger like Sharon Slinger in Leeds who raised over £500 for FairShare.
In the evening before sunset, we gathered with food and drink (many with the traditional date) ready for the first #LibDemIftar on zoom. I found it an emotional experience. I’ve never met so many non-Muslims fast in Ramadan at the same time. There were many at the Iftar who hadn’t fasted but were there for the experience - to hear about the stories of the day. There were discussions about the need to investigate the impact on Covid-19 on BAME communities. Cllr Humaira Ali talked about how to adapt working conditions for Muslims who fast and now many participants are proposing these ideas at their places of work. It was humbling.
Muslim Liberal Democrats who were present like Nasser Butt, Hussain Khan, former MEP Shaffaq Mohammed, Baroness Shas Sheehan, and others praised everyone’s efforts. Harun Khan, Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain joined us and later tweeted “hugely impressed by all the members who fasted to appreciate #Ramadan and the fasting experience”. Other prominent Muslim groups and influencers, mosques, and Imam tweeted their thanks too. I’m still getting grateful messages weeks later.
There’s so many lovely stories to share about the #LibDemIftar. Please ask the participants - they will be happy to explain how it impacted them. At the Iftar, we all agreed - #LibDemIftar had to happen again (hopefully not virtually) and that we should do similar initiatives with other faith groups too. A LibDemLent (Christianity), LibDemSedar (Judaism), a LibDemPuja (Hinduism), a way to learn from each of our diverse members. Not just be an observer from a distance but to truly experience and understand. #LibDemIftar shows that our party is growing more diverse every day, with many members from different cultures and religions and those not aligned to any faith. Why not celebrate our diversity? I joined a growing changing political party - that can embrace diversity in race, religion and thought and learn from each other.
We need bold ideas that show the diversity in the party, that can showcase our work. Through the work of the Racial Diversity Campaign, I hope the party continues to grow and especially in its diverse candidates representing us. #LibDemIftar happened after I gained advice from members of LDRCE, LibDem Muslim Forum and the Liberal Democrats diversity team at HQ. I obtained support from activists and campaigners from the London Mayoral campaign. Shared my ideas with members through articles in the Lib Dem Voice. MPs and their teams helped enormously by organising a Q&A video with Ed Davey explaining #LibDemIftar which was posted by the digital team in Liberal Democrat HQ. As well as the press team who helped publicise the first #LibDemIftar. With the support of people with vision and passion for new ideas, the Party had its first #LibDemIftar.
Thank you to everyone who was involved. Let’s do it again and more - because we need this.
I will end with a comment from Siobhan Benita, London Mayoral candidate.
“I have personally come away with a better understanding - and much admiration - for the discipline of Muslims who observe the entire month of Ramadan.
This was an opportunity to think about the importance of community, charity and kindness for others, things that I felt especially strongly when many of us - Muslims and non-Muslims - came together for the lovely, virtual Iftar to share our experiences and discuss the meaning of Ramadan.”
Hina Bokhari is a Merton councillor and second on the London list for the 2020 London Assembly elections. She became the first BAME councillor in the ward in 2018 and first Muslim woman elected in the borough. She also stood in Sutton, Cheam and Worcester Park in the 2019 general election. Hina was a teacher for 20 years and founded two mentoring charities. She is determined to make sure young people have a stronger voice in London, to ensure their futures are safe from knife crime and to deal with the climate emergency now.
You can follow Hina on Twitter @HinaBokhariLD