The Grand Iftar

Today’s blog comes from Easton ward Councillor Afzal Shah.

Ramadan Kareem! The month of Ramadan, for Muslims, is a period of reflection, self-restraint and solidarity, and involves fasting from dawn until dusk. Ramadan is not an individual experience, but about community.

This year, Bristol witnessed its third annual “Grand Iftar”, bringing together thousands of people from diverse backgrounds to collectively break-bread.

There were a number of engaging speakers, including renowned American scholar, Sheikh Afdal Feroze, who spoke about the need to promote greater friendship and understanding, as well as the significance of the holy month of Ramadan. We also had the opportunity to gain a brief insight into the Islamic contribution to Astronomy, in an enlightening speech by Robert Massey (Dep-Director of the Royal Astronomical Society), and were also joined by local leaders including Deputy Mayor Cllr Asher Craig and Kerry McCarthy MP.

The Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, spoke about how Bristol’s Grand Iftar has inspired other cities around the globe to get in touch via the Global Parliament of Mayors. Bristol, indeed Easton, can be immensely proud of what its achieved – this is the best antidote to the politics of division that we are currently witnessing.

There was a heightened atmosphere of excitement and solidarity, buoyed by the beautiful Islamic inspired “nasheed” music gently playing in the background, the evocative call to prayer made by the Imam of St Marks Road Mosque that echoed across St Marks Rd, and the wafting fragrances of the food being prepared. We were also treated to a video, commissioned by myself and Mohammed Elsharif (Grand Iftar co-organisers), detailing the preparation, and how the event has further united the city’s Muslim community. An inspiring performance, too, by former poet-laureate, Miles Chambers, as he read his poem, “Bristol, Bristol”, paying homage to the rich diversity to Bristol.

As we were preparing to collectively break the fast, we were reminded that this event simply wouldn’t be possible without the volunteers, and of course the contributions of local businesses and support of the emergency services. Preparing 6,000 meals is no mean feat! A huge thanks to everyone who attended yesterday evening. Bring on Bristol’s Grand Iftar 2020!

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