Any reader of the British press this month could be forgiven for thinking that Ramadan is simply a fast, and a particularly gruelling month-long fast at that. Admittedly, this year sees the longest UK Ramadan in more than 30 years – it’s fallen late and coincides with the summer solstice, so the days are longer.
One day of fasting during daylight hours in the UK this year can last up to 19 hours.
Elsewhere in the northern hemisphere, fasting can last 20 hours - in the uppermost northern countries such as Finland and Iceland, with moderate summer climes. In the Middle East, fasting can last as few as 16 hours, but daily temperatures in the range of 35-40 degrees make those hours harder for observers in Oman or Saudi Arabia, for example. The UK is by no means the most difficult place to be a Muslim this summer. And yet, articles have shot out in abundance to stress the hardship of Ramadan in the UK this year, describing it as ‘difficult’ and ‘challenging,’, stressing its abnormally long duration. The Guardian has even set up its own interactive page for Muslims to report how longer fasting will affect them.
It’s great that Ramadan is big news, because of course it is big news. There are nearly 3 million Muslims living in the UK. Ramadan featuring more prominently in the press is a refreshing reminder of the UK’s shifting demographics and our willingness to embrace and support other religious denominations. It is also important to educate non-Muslims on the hardships observers face in order to encourage general mindfulness and support.