The Ramadhan Diaries

Fasting in London and beyond

Archive for the day “July 24, 2012”

Muslims Fasting in Finland

Muslims Fasting in Finland

Here we have Muslims fasting in Finland-described as the land where the sun doesn’t set. In Ramadhan, Muslims break their fast when the sun sets and then start to fast again when the sun rises the next morning. So when the gap between sunset and sunrise narrows, it becomes even more of a challenge!

Huffington Post Images of Ramadhan

Huffington Post Images of Ramadhan

Ramadhan in pictures.

What Happens To Your Body When You Fast

What Happens To Your Body When You Fast

I sourced this from Youtube – it’s made by Emel, the Muslim lifestyle magazine. I found it quite interesting to watch and it was quite straightforward to follow. Not too much science.

Fasting in Greenland

Fasting in Greenland

I got sent this story link from a great friend Ann Alexander who lives up in Scotland. We met about ten years ago now – can’t believe it’s been that long – when I was still a student. We were both separately working away on stories and circumstances on men being detained without charge under TB’s policy ( remember my previous post I am not referring to tuberculosis but Tony Blair-am not being medical here). I was living at the foot of the Grampian mountains surrounded by cows and sheep in the lovely village of Edzell and Ann was living by the beautiful little coastal town of Montrose. We were only fifteen minutes away from each other. I was doing my bit on my side of the hills and she was doing her’s and it took someone in London who knew us both to connect us!

Anyway Ann is great at spotting stuff on the web and she has sourced this gorgeous story about the Only Muslim In Greenland. He is fasting for 21 hours a day because of the way the summer works over there! Now that is hardcore.


Radio Ramadhan

I love community radio! And Ramadhan Radio belongs to this genre-where for 30 days of the year members of the community come together and get a really dynamic radio station onto air. In Edinburgh, when I lived there-and how I miss it- Radio Ramadhan Edinburgh was a really exciting venture. There was a lot of hard work and passion that went on behind the scenes and the professionalism and dedication was pretty inspiring. If you want to have a snap shot of what they do – check out the website. They try to get a healthy mix of the spiritual, the essentials-like lessons about prayer and the Qu’ran, community and politics. It’s also a fab way to know of what is going on in the community.

David Beckham in Westfield, Stratford!!!

David Beckham in Westfield, Stratford!!!

I do think David Beckham is just a fantastic person. He just oozes ‘nice bloke’ and he’s from Leytonstone!  He’s one of my heroes – and a inspiring role model without any of the arrogance, ego or awful lifestyles that blight the lives of many other footballing celebrities. I think it’s rubbish and disrespectful that he wasn’t chosen to play in the GB Olympic football team and seeing who they did put in his place made me realise it had nothing to do with who the better player was. It was down to other reasons unspecified and highlighted negative attributes of the key decision makers on that front.

Beckham is a much loved legend – it comes from being a top bloke. Not that many of those around especially in his chosen career.

Day 5 It’s Rather Hot.

I know we are missing day 4, but I will get that up soonest. I just wanted to update on today so far. I had my meeting with my business consultant from a government triggered initiative to support ex-service personnel start their own businesses. It was a rather positive experience. Now I know writing and trying to make films from my borrowed bedroom in my mum’s house has its perks, there are times when you just need that creative space and to feel more than just another hopeful. So this meeting was the first step in projecting a more focused and professional plan in my ambition to set up my own functioning media production company. They are going to teach me how to write a business plan which is going to be so helpful. When you really have to think through the fine details it’s actually quite tough. Up until now I have largely been depending on my creative spirit but it’s time to grow up.

I think Remi was wondering why I didn’t want anything to drink and I almost tried to explain that I was fasting. But what I hate is making people uncomfortable or awkward because they are drinking or eating in front of me. So I just said no thanks and instead talked about my business plan. It felt like being on Alan Sugar’s Apprentice!

The meeting took place in the Institute of Directors – just a five minute wander from Liverpool Street. I love the area actually-with Spitalfield’s around the corner, the heart of the financial body beating just beyond the station and a link should you need to the rest of London via the tube. I love it most because I can get to it from where I live without having to get onto the tube. I hate London Underground. Sorry but I do. It smells and I always feel ‘grimey’ when I emerge into the daylight like a mole.

So tell me when did it get so hot? I mean it is boiling out there. The announcer over the train was sensibly telling us all to carry a bottle of water. My sister is working at the Olympics as a Games Maker. Yesterday she described the anti-climax of it all being in the Olympic VIllage. She’s a GP registrar and was employed as someone to security check bags. She is fasting and said that she had never felt so thirsty in the whole of her life. She didn’t mind the role given to her if that’s what it was going to take to be part of the London Olympic family-but she’s just not feeling it yet.

There are signs up at the train station welcoming people to the Olympic city, and people taking photos of themselves next to them. A small group stood cheering and posing, with one member wearing pink T-shirts that said ‘Ceremonies’-in the Olympic logo jagged edge style. Lucky bloke. Watching the ceremony on TV is just not going to feel the same. I wonder if I stand in my back garden will I be able to hear faint sounds of the score ordered by Danny Boyle? I remember being about 9 years old and standing on top of the desk in my bedroom looking out of the top window to see fireworks going off somewhere near Canary Wharf at a Jean-Michel Jarre concert. Might be doing the same all these years on. I failed in my resolve to get a ticket to the opening or closing ceremony. Ah well-there’s always Brazil to try.

Once I would have wilted in this heat-not sure how hot it exactly is but let’s say very. But after Tataouine (Tunisia not Star Wars) last year and it’s scorched earth policy, I feel as if I have built a lifelong tolerance to extreme heat. I don’t like it but I don’t feel ill in it. And I was fasting last year too in 45 degrees heat. Now that’s when you are going to feel thirsty!

I think I am devoted to my blog and almost slightly addicted. I rushed home to write. It’s so exciting to see my network expanding-yesterday we had readers from the US, UK, Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Canada, EU, Singapore, Norway, France and today we have the UAE, Indonesia and Jersey added to the list. I remember sailing our boat , complete with a skipper to Jersey on our way to Saint Marlo when I was a Sandhurst cadet. I was on my Competent Crew course. I vomited all the way there from the Isle of Wight. It was an awesome trip.




Day 3 Iftar Under House Arrest

I went home after the tomato based discussion on day 3 at about 4pm. I had stayed away since the argument-not wanting to get involved in dietary debates anymore. It was a Sunday and I allowed my self a multi-faith shared day of rest. When I got home I found mum sun bathing in the garden.

During that day myself and a friend who is currently living under house arrest on bail facing deportation back to Algeria were watching Jamie Oliver in Marrakech on Channel 4. How Jamie did all that cooking, exploring, eating and shopping in the craziest bizarre on earth in just two days I will never know. But it was an excellent programme. It did not help us in that we were both fasting but it did put me in the mood to cook later. Dangerous!

It was even more important to be there that day. When I turned to my friend – let’s call him Khaled because his conditions of bail request that he is kept anonymous – he had tears in his eyes. He was remembering all the Ramadhans he had missed with his family in Algeria. He first came to the UK after fleeing Algeria where he had suffered torture and found himself with a death sentence in absentia. He was granted leave to remain in the UK almost immediately. 9/11 happened and attitudes towards young men from Algeria changed, becoming suspicious. Khaled was accused of being involved in a plot to poison London-the ricin plot of 2003. You may have heard of it. Especially when the verdict came back from the jury as non-guilty and then one of the jurors, Lawrence Archer, went on to write a book about the experience called ‘Ricin-The Terror Plot That Never Was’.

Khaled was a free man for about six months after his acquittal , but then after Tony Blair’s Rules of the Game Have Changed speech – Khaled found himself on a deportation order, with a verbal diplomatic assurance in place between the UK and Algeria authorities that he would not be tortured on return. No papers were signed to cement that arrangement because as Algeria explained-to sign to such an agreement would be an admission to the fact that they torture. That was 2005 and since then Khaled has been in an out of detention as bail has been won, revoked on secret evidence and then won back again. Being on bail means house arrest with curfew hours. In the beginning they were pretty tight but as time has passed and months have turned into seven years-the hours allowed out of the house have increased. It also means only having visitors who are Home Office cleared to visit. I got that clearance a few years back.

Khaled had tears in his eyes as he watched Jamie Oliver cooking the food his mother had made him and his family all those years ago. When he was last there, fifteen years ago, he had shared Ramadhan with all his family. Now as the years have moved on his father, grandmother, aunty and a fair number of uncles have died.

Even though it was Morocco, the part of Algeria Khaled comes from is closely related to Morocco, being so close to the western border. The programme and all it’s explanations, insights and descriptions were spot on – credit to the Fresh One Productions crew. It made one North African man devoid of true liberty really remember home. He can’t go home because he will almost certainly face some degree of harm.

Now I knew I could never replicate Jamie that day but I was going to stay and break my fast with Khaled. And so I set to work. I have never been the best cook in Essex-that goes to Jamie-but I thought I could at least make a chicken curry and rice. It’s something tried and tested. Khaled however has a really sharp palate and so my slightly overly brown onions in the sauce were highlighted instantly. How he could taste them in amongst the other herbs and spices I will never know. I was really pleased with myself. Referring back to Jamie again and his 30 minute meals programmes, I worked fast. It’s amazing how when you start moving about doing something with purpose that you forget that you are indeed fasting.

We broke our fast together with the traditional dates and milk and as often happens-were too full to eat most of the food. It got packaged and put into the fridge. That’s what you often find in Ramadhan-that somehow fridges and cupboards are bulging with food-with no extra mad dash Christmas style shopping having taken place. There just seems to be plenty of food about. Some people call that one of the blessings of Ramadhan.

After eating and having that essential cup of coffee and doing the sunset prayer, Maghreb, it was time to go out. Khaled has been given permission to attend the night prayers, taraweer, in the local Turkish mosque. He is only allow to go to that specific one within his conditions.

Initially we had no idea if there was a space for women in this mosque. Men and women pray separately, but the women’s section will be connected with a loud speak so we can hear the imam leading the prayers. As I sat in the car waiting, I spotted a few women disappearing into a door on the other side of the building. I went to have a look. There inside was a very organised, tidy and freshly decorated layout. About three rooms side by side had rows of women in prayer. Some of the women had been entering the secret door in knee length dresses, leggings and no headscarves, but once inside they were dressed for prayer and hardly recognisable. I loved the tolerance of it all. Plus no screaming kids. Sorry to all the mums with little ones, but sometimes during those night prayers, all you can hear are crying babies and young children having the times of their life as they run up and down the rows of praying women, unable to stop them because their heads are bent in prayer. They don’t seem to have that in the Turkish mosque. I’m impressed.

The thing that took me by surprise was the break neck speed in which the imaam recited Arabic! He was so fast-if you can imagine Arabic with a Turkish accent read on fast forward – well that’s it. I controlled a smile as I first heard it, regained my poise and got on with praying. I managed to pray my night prayer, Isha and then 8 parts of the taraweer following the imam in all of about ten minutes!

Emerging from the mosque myself and Khaled discussed the recitation. It was different. But I had liked going and joining in. I had never prayed in a Turkish mosque before. It did however make me remember praying in a mosque in Sarajevo where the imam was a Kosovan,with a strong Turkish connection. I couldn’t remember him having read so fast. I remember that time as quite defining in my appreciation of Muslims from around the world. It had been most profound.

Getting back to Ramadhan night 3, we decided to go in search of coffee. Khaled has boundaries outside of which he is not allowed to venture. So in my red Nissan Almerra that sounds as if the axle is about to fall off, we drove careful around the permitted areas. It was interesting to see the different communities and groups of Muslims walking in the cool night air, relaxed and gently making their way home after finishing the night prayers. Somalian ladies with their children, Pakistani men leaving their chosen mosque and other groups just taking some time to meet each other after the day of fasting.

In search of coffee we looked for the Algerian coffee shop in Khaled’s boundary. You can spot it a mile off. It’s typical to the behaviour in Algiers. Groups of Algerian men stand outside the coffee shop, drinking their espressos and double macchhiatos. They’ll be up until sehur at 3am.

Khaled rushed in and grabbed two coffees and two yummy fruit tartlets. The Algerians are rather good at their patisserie skills. We go back to the house in time for Khaled to call the tagging company to say he is back in before his curfew expires.

I leave to drive home at about midnight with a cup of coffee, listening to Radio 4 all the way. I stay up for breakfast or Sehur and try to wake my sister. She manages to raise her head out of the bed and then vanishes back in to sleep. She blames me the next day for not trying hard enough to wake her up. There will be bells and whistles next time!!

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