Why do more non-Muslims participate in Ramadan?

Why do more non-Muslims participate in Ramadan?

Why do more non-Muslims participate in Ramadan?

In the Middle East, Ramadan is a significant part of the culture, making it common for non-Muslims to participate in the fasting and celebrations. However, the situation is quite different in countries where Christianity is the majority religion, but this trend could be shifting.

It may appear unusual for a practicing Muslim to express, but Kholoud Khardoum, a 53-year-old resident of Iraq, is unequivocal.

Ramadan is not solely about religion,” stated the Baghdad-based writer. “It also involves the ambiance and the custom of people gathering together.”

Although Iraq is predominantly Muslim, in regions where various religious communities coexist, non-Muslims frequently participate in festivities during the month-long Muslim holiday of Ramadan, as per The Diplomat News. In particular, “iftar,” the evening meal where friends and family unite to end the daily fast, can become a communal event.

Why do more non-Muslims participate in Ramadan?

“Occasionally, Christian individuals prepare dessert and share it with their Muslim neighbors,” Khardoum remarked. “Sometimes Muslims exchange food. Or they fast together. It’s truly wonderful to partake in these activities,” she added.

Similar narratives can be found in other parts of the Middle East. “One of my dearest and oldest friends is Muslim, so we share certain traditions,” mentioned Egyptian Woman Um Amir, a 50-year-old resident of Assiut, a city located south of Cairo. “For instance, I fast during the day in Ramadan, then break my fast with her family.”

“I am Christian, but since childhood, I have had numerous Muslim friends, and I have never placed great importance on different religions,” stated Lebanese woman Rita, 34, who is also observing the fast in Beirut.

Read Also: Do plastic bans make a difference?

Is Ramadan gaining more recognition in the Western world?

It is not surprising that the experiences of the three women mentioned in the article are familiar to those living in Muslim-majority countries. Just as it is difficult for non-Muslims to ignore Ramadan in Europe or North America, it is equally challenging for Muslims to avoid Christmas in these regions.

However, Ramadan is gradually becoming a more prominent holiday in countries with Christian majorities.

Last year, London made history by adorning a significant street with Ramadan lights, making it the first major European city to do so. Following London’s lead, Frankfurt am Main in Germany also set up Ramadan lighting this year, becoming the first major German city to do so.

In Austria, a noteworthy event called “open iftar” took place in the state of Carinthia, where over 1,000 people gathered to break the Ramadan fast and share a meal together. This event welcomes all community members, regardless of their religious background or whether they have fasted. The organizers have observed a growing number of attendees each year. As reported by the regional newspaper Kleine Zeitung, one participant expressed surprise at the significant presence of non-Muslims at the event.

Why do more non-Muslims participate in Ramadan?

Esther-Miriam Wagner, the director of Cambridge University’s Woolf Institute, which focuses on the relationships between Jews, Christians, and Muslims, has confirmed the rise in iftars organized by state institutions, charities, and churches to celebrate diversity.

Farid Hafez, a senior researcher at the Bridge Initiative, a project investigating Islamophobia based at Washington’s Georgetown University, argued that Ramadan’s increased visibility is also about enhancing political recognition and equality for Muslims in the public sphere.

Read Also: Can we halt extinction and safeguard biodiversity?

For instance, Hafez mentioned that in the 1990s, former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright initiated “iftars” in her diplomatic department. This practice of inviting Muslims for structured dialogues during the event was then adopted by US embassies in European countries, leading to similar initiatives by European states. This involvement extended to chancellors, prime ministers, and ministers of integration.

The commercial impact of Ramadan has also contributed to the heightened profile of the Muslim holy month. Muslims tend to spend more during Ramadan on various items such as gifts, clothing, food, and even automobiles. In the Middle East alone, the spending during Ramadan 2023 exceeded $60 billion (€55 billion). The advertising campaigns for Ramadan have evolved and expanded, potentially conveying messages beyond the intended communities.

Accused of appropriating culture

Wagner, the director of the Woolf Institute, has another theory about the impact of language and generational change on the perception of Ramadan. As a sociolinguist, Wagner argues that when people speak a language without an accent, there is a shift in their sense of belonging. In Britain, native-English-speaking Muslims in their 40s and 50s are now taking on leadership roles and exerting influence.

A similar trend can be observed in France. Researchers have noted that the next generation of French Muslims feel more comfortable practicing their religion openly. By visibly practicing their religion, young French individuals assert their status as fully integrated members of society, according to Jamel El Hamri, a researcher at the Institute of Research on Arab and Islamic Societies in France.

However, these developments do not please everyone. Some Muslims are unhappy with the commercialization of Ramadan. Conservative clerics argue that non-Muslims should not participate at all, while far-right Europeans fear that this practice will lead to the downfall of their civilization. Moreover, specific social media influencers face allegations of cultural appropriation for participating in an online health challenge by observing fasting during Ramadan.

Despite these criticisms, both Hafez and Wagner believe that the benefits of people becoming more accepting of different belief systems outweigh these negative opinions.

For Muslims growing up in a predominantly Christian culture, incorporating the festival of Ramadan into the public space is a way of recognizing its importance and acknowledging its place in society, according to Hafez. For non-Muslims, celebrating and embracing diversity is an opportunity to foster a thriving, vibrant, and more just society, Wagner concluded.

1 thought on “Why do more non-Muslims participate in Ramadan?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *