Orginally Published – Evening Standard
Last night marked the start of the second Ramadan, the month of fasting, under lockdown for Muslims across the UK. For many, this Ramadan will be particularly difficult as there will be empty chairs at the dinner table as they end their fasts at sunset.
I do not know a single Muslim family that has not been impacted in some way by Covid-19, many losing family members or grappling with the crippling effects of long Covid. My father-in-law caught the virus in October last year and spent months in ICU.
At one point his family were asked to say their final farewells, but unlike many in his position, he made a miraculous recovery and will be home this Ramadan thanks to the boundless support and care of our NHS.
Despite the initial disparities in the take up of the vaccine within ethnic minority communities, vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi, who lost his uncle to coronavirus, has empowered places of worship including mosques, churches, synagogues, temples and gurdwaras to become vaccine hubs.
This enabled people of faith and none to take the vaccine in places of local importance. This has not only helped to dispel Covid-19 myths, but according to a recent Ipsos Mori poll, resulted in a 16 per cent increase in vaccinations in these communities.
Many vulnerable Muslims, including my mother, will have their second vaccine appointment in Ramadan. They now have a renewed sense of confidence after the UK’s leading religious authorities last week confirmed taking the second injection during Ramadan will not break their fast and is a spiritual requirement for their safety and the safety of our nation.
With social distancing measures still in place, virtual iftars, the evening meal to end the fast, will again play a vital part in helping communities unite in our struggles and celebrate what we have in common.
With more than 500,000 people taking part in last year’s Naz Legacy Foundation’s Virtual Iftars, launched by the Prince of Wales, the foundation will continue to connect diverse communities during this Ramadan and will be joined again by leading faith leaders and Cabinet members, including the Foreign Secretary and Health Secretary.
As we enter the next phase of easing out of lockdown, these small but important steps of uniting communities will help us build back better.
Harris Bokhari is founder and trustee of the Naz Legacy Foundation