Peterborough MP Joins Ramadan Fast for Better Understanding of Muslims28 Apr 2020
As Ramadan started on Friday, Muslims around the world are, once again, fasting to observe a period of spiritual reflection and self-improvement. This year, a Conservative Party member of the United Kingdom’s Parliament, Paul Bristow, has said he will be joining thousands of Muslims in the UK who are fasting. Bristow said that he will be fasting for the first week of Ramadan to better understand what the holy month means for Muslims so that he can better understand those in his constituency. Bristow also said that he hopes to learn more about himself in the process.
Bristow has, so far, received mostly positive reactions from many Muslims, including the Joint Mosques Council and the Peterborough Muslim Council, who have supported him on his decision to fast.
“Generosity isn’t limited to one faith”
Bristow announced that he would be fasting for the first week of Ramadan on a video he posted on Twitter. In the video, he explained that although he may not be a Muslim, he believes that many of the values taught by Ramadan are values that are common to other faiths. He explained that there is more that unites the city of Peterborough than that which divide us, and added that the lessons of self-restraint, mental strength, and empathy for those less fortunate are good lessons to learn for anyone.
He also said that he hoped in fasting, he would gain a better understanding with the 20,000 Muslims of his city, while showing those who had not experienced Ramadan, like himself, an idea of what the holy month is about.
Bristow has received some negative reactions
Although the reactions to Bristow’s decision have broadly been positive, he has also received a number of negative comments, particularly on Twitter. Most of the negativity surrounded accusations that Bristow was “pandering to the Muslims”, with some criticising his decision to fast on grounds that the UK is part of Europe and therefore Christian while others going as far as to suggest this is yet another example of the “Islamisation” of Europe.
A number of commentators have even made accusing comments about Bristow having converted to Islam, with one commenter asking if his wife “is putting on the Burka yet?” On the video he posted for the third day of his fasting, Bristow said that some of the comments had gotten to him, maybe on account of being irritable due to not having eaten or drank anything. But he said that he recognises Ramadan is about ridding yourself of negative emotions and not thinking ill of people, saying that this is another common point with other faiths including Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism. He said that he would try to think positively of all the trolls who had commented negatively about his decision.
“This is a learning experience, and I’d prefer to be honest about it than not.”
Bristow was not the only political figure to partake in this year’s fasting. Cambridgeshire county councillor Ian Manning from the Liberal Democrat Party also took part in the fasting, sharing his experiences on the teleconferencing app Zoom as he broke his fast with an iftar meal. However, Manning’s attempt at expressing solidarity with Muslims backfired when he tweeted images of his food, bacon and eggs, and tagged the Muslim Council of Britain in his post. He deleted the post after people pointed out that pork is haram and chalked his mistake to ignorance and lack of attention, describing the blunder as a learning experience.
Manning isn’t the first to make this blunder. In the past, Tesco has been criticised for offering deals on bacon and bacon-flavoured products to Muslims for Ramadan.
In addition to genuine mistakes, Islamophobes have been known to post images of bacon and other pork products and tagging prominent Muslims or Islamic organisations in an attempt to troll them.