OPINION: Come together, right now, over prayer and celebration

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OPINION: Come together, right now, over prayer and celebration

As Ramadan, Passover and Easter coincide over one weekend, Laura Marks says it offers a real opportunity to connect with neighbours of other faiths

Nisa Nashim members at South Hampstead synagogue. Pic: Yakir Zur
Nisa Nashim members at South Hampstead synagogue. Pic: Yakir Zur

Last month, 70 year old Mohammed Rayaz was attacked and set on fire on his way home from his Mosque in Edgbaston, Birmingham.

A couple of weeks earlier, and unimaginably, an 82-year-old man, Hashi Odowa was set alight outside an Islamic center in Ealing – seemingly by the same perpetrator. We expect our places of worship to be safe and similarly our journey home – though sadly the Jewish community needs to rely on security measures and the ever present CST for this basic right.

A woman I know well, was the victim of a terrifying attack on the Tube, reported in the press, again only last month. Men surrounded her and threatened to behead her whilst onlookers did nothing. This woman, who wears a hijab and is black, like the men leaving their mosques, was targeted for being visibly Muslim, part of a massive rise in Islamophobic attacks running alongside the growth in antisemitism we understand so very well.

Laura Marks

At Pesach, Jewish families and friends will eagerly await sundown to tuck into our boiled eggs, charoset and roast chicken dinners. We congregate in the home but also in synagogue halls and with our friends; probably the most celebrated festival of the Jewish year.

Similarly, in Muslim homes, mosques and communal spaces as night falls, the fast is broken with dates, dinner (and large glasses of water) each day during the holy month of Ramadan. The rituals bear so many similarities and this year, very unusually, circumstance and our complex calendars conspire to bring Ramadan, Passover and Easter together over one extraordinary weekend of prayer and celebration.

Unlike Easter, there is no direct immediate connection between Ramadan and Pesach but nonetheless, there are many similarities including the focus on family and community, a multi-day festival allowing for time to connect and reflect, a focus on food – including food restrictions, and both offer the opportunity to connect with our neighbours of other faiths or beliefs.

Nisa Nashim members at Regent’s Park mosque. Pic: Yakir Zur

Iftars, the meal at the end of the day of fasting, have been taking place the length and breadth of the nation with non-Muslims invited to come and share food, drink, reflections and friendship.

Our Jewish/Muslim network, Nisa-Nashim hosted an iftar for and with women asylum seekers hosted by the Jewish Vegetarian Society. We cooked together, shared rituals, explained both Ramadan and Pesach to nearly 50 women and started to plan a project to bring Eid gifts to the asylum seekers’ children later this month.

With tensions in Israel running high, and as always elevated further during Ramadan, it is easy to separate ourselves from our Muslim neighbours and retreat into our own world, particularly with the chag upon us.

Nisa Nashim members at St. Johns Wood Church. Pic: Yakir Zur

However, this confluence of festivals gives us all the opportunity to seize the moment, to resist the urge to compare one oppression with another, and to come together.

Allyship is hard but this week gives us all the spirit and opportunity of learning to tackle bigotry and intimidation together.

Chag Sameach and Ramadan Mubarak.

  • Laura Marks OBE is co-founder and acting CEO, Nisa Nashim, the only Jewish-Muslim women’s national network in Europe.
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