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Conservative MP says 'proud' to fast in Ramadan to understand Muslims

Paul Bristow [Richard Townshend/Wikicommons]

Date of publication: 28 April, 2020

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A Tory MP has announced that he is observing fasting during the month of Ramadan, in an effort to better understand his Muslim constituents.
A Conservative MP has decided to fast for the first week of Ramadan in an attempt to get closer to his constituents, as coronavirus changes the way Muslims observe the holy month.

Paul Bristow, Conservative MP for Peterborough announced his intention to fast in a video on Twitter.

“I’m doing this because there are an estimated 20,000 Muslims living in Peterborough and I want to understand more about Islam, and about what Ramadan means for them,” he told over 6,000 followers.

In a video he posted on Monday talking about his fourth day abstaining from food, he said: “I’ve not been thinking about how hungry and thirsty I am, and the fact that I am fasting.”

He also took the chance to praise his Muslim constituents.

“What I have been thinking of is this is an incredibly important time for Muslims in terms of charity, and charitable giving, and looking after those who are less fortunate than them and it reminds me of the community in Peterborough and those who are donating free services for those who are socially isolating and those who are vulnerable…takeaways and restaurants giving away food – many of them owned by Muslims,” he said.

“But all sorts of different businesses – taxi drivers, taxi firms, garages, electricians, are all giving away free services for people of Peterborough.”

Bristow added: “And they make me proud”.

Bristow isn’t the only politician to announce his intentions to fast alongside his Muslim constituents; Liberal Democrats have also joined in.

Acting leader Ed Davey and MP Layla Moran abstained from food and drink from sunrise until sunset, and used the hashtag #LibDemIftar to share their experiences.

However one Cambridgeshire county councillor Ian Manning apologised after he took part in Lib Dem Iftar and tweeted a photograph of bacon and boiled eggs and tagged the Muslim Council of Britain with the caption:

“Up early to start my fast for #LibDemIftar! Really not sure I’ll get through to the evening but we’ll see!”

Many thought the tweet was tone-deaf, as Muslims do not eat pork.

'Rampant Islamophobia'

The Conservative party has been haunted by accusations of systemic Islamophobia, and last month the Muslim Council of Britain once again called for an independent inquiry into accusations of Islamophobia in the party.

In a letter to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the MCB accused the party of being unwilling to address a “systemic” problem.

The MCB wrote a letter to the Tories and sent a “dossier of evidence” with an additional 300 individuals who have spoken about incidents that occurred within the party.

“Islamophobic attitudes of intolerance and hatred towards Muslims and Islam have no place in our society, and particularly in our political parties,” the letter reads.

“The prevalence of these views in the Party is unacceptable, but it is important to recognise that these attitudes do not exist in isolation, and actually have a tangible impact.

“For example, the scale of Islamophobia and anti-Islam remarks create a culture of intolerance and unacceptance of Muslims in the Party, which leads to… Muslim members of the Party choosing to resign their membership.”

Responding to the MCB's collection of documents, the Conservative Party said it "consistently takes decisive action to deal with any incidents of hatred, abuse or intimidation".

"We are holding an independent review which is looking at how we can improve our processes - to make sure that any instances are isolated, and that there are thorough processes in place to stamp them out as and when they occur."

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