LONDON – As Muslims worldwide prepare to welcome the holy month of Ramadan, Muslim organizations in London are joining hands in a new initiative to promote respect across lines of culture, religion, tradition, class and gender during the fasting month.
“We are using Ramadan as an opportunity to bring people together from different faiths and share in the atmosphere that is created at such a special time of year for Muslims,” says Ramadan Festival 2012 website.
“An important opportunity to highlight our shared values and to organize events and activities at all levels that people can easily engage in, be part of and benefit from.”
The festival, planned to launch on Wednesday, July 18, would run through the fasting month of Ramadan from July 20 to August 18.
It comes as a part of 2012 Hours Against Hate for Unity, a join initiative of London-based community organizations to promote respect across lines of culture, religion, tradition, class and gender.
The initiative has been granted the prestigious London 2012 Inspire mark, the badge of the London 2012 Inspire program which recognizes exceptional and innovative projects inspired by the 2012 Olympic Games.
The project partners include different Muslim organizations such as the Cedar Network, a pan-European professional network, Islamic Society of Britain and the umbrella Muslim Council of Britain.
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.
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.
Sharing Ramadan with the community, the London Festival would include different activities aimed at bringing the society closer.
Events and activities would include Dine@Mine event to "invite friends, neighbors and colleagues to a Muslim household and sharing Iftar within a family setting and corporate hospitality iftars in banks, large corporate and government departments,” the festival website says.
These activities would come under at least one of three main headings of acquaintance and dialogue, breaking down barriers and expanding and creating networks.
Participants would also share “food with the homeless and most vulnerable in society including Iftars and hampers of food.”
Other arts and cultural events including charity fundraising, lectures, seminars and round table events would be held.
London mosques would also host iftar for thousands of athletes and visitors during the London Olympics, which coincides with the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
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.
The first Ramadan Festival, initiated by Ahmed Larouz, was held in 2005 in the Netherlands in more than 9 cities and since then they have grown from strength to strength.
Over 150 Muslim organizations, mosques, interfaith networks and more have worked closely with professionals and businesses to organize community iftars, lectures, debates, hospitality dinners and children’s’ parties.
In the Netherlands alone in 2010 there were more than 2,000 activities organized in 42 different citiesRamadan Festivals have also taken place in Switzerland, Belgium and Norway.
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