LONDON – As preparations are in full swing for next month’s Olympic Games in London, mosques in the British capital are getting ready to host iftar for thousands of athletes and visitors during the tournament, which coincides with the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
“The fact that you will never have a Ramadan, and Olympics, in London, at the same time, ever again,” British hockey star Darren Cheesman, a Muslim convert, told ABS-CBN news on Tuesday, June 12.
“It's a great way to use something that the whole country is going to be focused on, and saying: 'Hold on, there's another big event going on this month – Ramadan.”
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Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, is expected to start on July 20 through August.
It will coincide with the London Olympics, which is scheduled to start on July 27 to August 12.
The iftar program, organized by London's Islamic Cultural Center and London mosques, features hosting thousands of athletes and visitors who will flood the British capital for the sporting event.
Participating mosques will serve Iftars to break the fast to visitors, welcome athletes to their premises and celebrate the event with non-Muslims.
“There's a load of Muslims in this country who are all there and let's use it as a chance to open our doors and build community links and start to show each other what we are really about,” Cheesman said.
Haafizah Ahmed, another scout, was yearning to the experience of fasting Ramadan during the Olympics.
"It's good because we learn new skills and we haven't played with a real Olympic champion before," Ahmed said.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
The sick and those traveling are exempt from fasting especially if it poses health risks.
Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to be closer to Allah through prayers, self-restraint and good deeds.
The iftar initiative won plaudits from British officials who hail the experience for celebrating the Muslim faith as well as Britain's multicultural mix.
"I think Iftar 2012 is a fantastic initiative to bring communities in the UK together and to really celebrate Islam,” British Home Office minister James Brokenshire said.
“The Olympics and Ramadan are taking place at the same time over the course of the summer and we want this to be an inclusive Olympic and Iftar 2012 will help achieve that as well as celebrating the culture that we have in this country -- reflecting the country we are and we want to be.”
Facing the hard task of hosting thousands of visitors every day, London mosques were ready for the challenge.
"The logistics program we have on a yearly basis is quite magnanimous,” said Omar Saddique, the visits officer at London's Islamic Cultural Center.
Organizers have said more than eight million tickets have been sold for the Games.
“So we have this team set up who provide the food to facilitate the welcoming of visitors and worshippers who come here,” Saddique said.
“We have this team set up on a regular basis, in fact, not only with the accompaniment of Iftar 2012 but over the years, the logistics of it has been very smooth.”Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority, estimated at nearly 2.5 million.
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