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Alhamdulillah! Islamic Relief welcomes Ramadan across the UK

Alhamdulillah! Islamic Relief welcomes Ramadan across the UK

Ramadan is a time which Muslims all over the world anticipate eagerly. While those who haven’t experienced the holy month might find the idea odd – 19 hour fasts in the UK perhaps don’t sound like something to look forward to! – the increased periods of devotion and worship, and the spirit of community and generosity, are beautiful blessings which make all the hunger and thirst worthwhile for millions of Muslims.

In our 30th year of service, Islamic Relief invited valued volunteers, supporters, community and faith leaders and special guests to celebrate our three decades of achievements and welcome in the blessed month. We also made an exciting announcement: that this Ramadan, every donation to Islamic Relief UK before 3rd August can be doubled with match-funding from the UK Government, up to a maximum of £5 million! The additional funding received from the Department for International Development (DfID) will fund an innovative project in Sudan, transforming more than 50 impoverished villages across the country.

In Manchester, our guests were greeted by beautiful Qur’an recitation from Qari Muhammed Jebril, and a spiritual reminder on being charitable through smiling and good manners by Shaykh Abdulbary Yahya. The Bishop of Manchester, David Walker, then addressed the audience, with a prayer that “occasions such as this will both inspire us to greater achievements in our work and serve as a wake up call to our wider society that we are here, are proud of our faith, and are ready to serve the common good.” Huffington Post political director Mehdi Hasan also took to the stage, praising the volunteers behind the scenes – not just for the launch event, but for everything they do: “Volunteers organised this event and volunteers are what makes Islamic Relief happen.”


Political journalist Mehdi Hasan addresses guests in Manchester – photo © Charmante Photographie

In Birmingham, birthplace of Islamic Relief, a trio of faith leaders – the Rabbi Margaret Jacobi, Bishop of Birmingham David Urquhart, and Cambridge professor and scholar Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad – praised Islamic Relief for putting faith into action through charity, and spoke of the virtues of spiritual discipline exemplified during Ramadan. Mark Rogers, Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council, also addressed our guests, thanking Islamic Relief for inviting him to the launch – “apologies Bishop, but I’ve been invited to so many churches, and never to a Ramadan celebration!” – and expressing his hope that Ramadan would be “a month for us all to reflect in peace and love.”

Across the border, our Scottish guests heard from Kathy Galloway of Christian Aid Scotland and Glasgow’s Lord Provost. Shaykh Hasan Rabbani also reminded the audience that fasting is not just about eating and drinking, but that all our limbs should fast from negative actions and unkind deeds.

In London, our biggest gathering of guests was greeted by Myriam Francois-Cerrah, host for the evening. She reminded the audience that “Ramadan, and fasting, are ultimately ways of giving thanks for our myriad of blessings,” before introducing UK Director Jehangir Malik, who announced the exciting news of Islamic Relief’s partnership with DfID this Ramadan.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, whose message was read out by Rev Rachel Carnegie, said “we give thankfulness for the compassion of Islamic Relief and your supporters. It’s not an easy time to be Muslim in Britain, but we value your contribution to our common life and the work we do together.” Simon Hughes MP echoed the Archbishop’s appreciation for the work of the Muslim community, stating “we thank the British Muslim community for your generosity, increasing our national capacity to support those in need. Islamic Relief and British Muslims are firmly embedded in UK society – the rest of us have a responsibility to stand by our brothers and sisters.”

After boxing legend Amir Khan took to the stage to recount his experiences travelling with Islamic Relief to our work in Nowshera, Pakistan, Islamic Relief Worldwide CEO Dr Mohamed Ashmawey addressed the guests. “We are so proud of being a British Muslim organisation that spreads khair (goodness) throughout the world. We’re proud, not shy, of our faith, and we’re not media-hungry – everyone heard about the Philippines, but who knows about the crisis Yemen is going through? Islamic Relief is there. Allah said in the Qur’an “we dignified the children of Adam” (17:70), so we spend time getting to know beneficiaries’ needs with respect and dignity – when we leave, we don’t want anyone to have to spread their hands and beg for food again.”


Channel 4 newsreader Jon Snow addresses guests in London

The highlight of the evening however was undoubtedly Channel 4 newsreader Jon Snow, who blew the audience away with tales of voluntary work in Uganda aged 18, before praising Islamic Relief’s 30-year history around the world. He told of how he had seen our work in countries including Haiti and Pakistan, as well as highlighting our role in Syria and Palestine – in particular our position as the “principal NGO source of succor for those struggling to live in any kind of dignity in Gaza.” Drawing on key findings from our YouGov survey, he noted that UK Muslims are more proud to be British than Scots, while only 6% disagree with the values PM David Cameron defined as quintessentially British. Finally, he urged the audience to remember that “we are one human condition, and we have to bind together and stay together,” encouraging guests to work hard to break down barriers between communities, as well as donating to Islamic Relief to help double our income this Ramadan.

In amongst the weighty and heartfelt speeches, guests were also invited to tell us what they are grateful for, taking the key message of our Ramadan campaign, “alhamdulillah (all praise is due to God)” to a personal – and sometimes humorous – level. Responses ranged from the bedrocks of life, like family, friends and faith, to smaller everyday joys like mango juice and good coffee! Volunteers from our fundraising sensation #Cakes4Syria were also in attendance, making sure to spread the word about how chocolate fudge cake could help change lives this Ramadan, and getting endorsements from Jon Snow and other guests.

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