Non-Muslim members of a town’s council have been informed by e-mail they need to follow the strict fasting requirements of Islam during Ramadan because their Muslim colleagues are.
“Once again the selfishness of Islam has struck non-Muslims,” said a commentary at Islam in Action 08, which reported on the issue. “Muslims continue to show us that they have no respect for the beliefs of non-Muslims nor can they be trusted. They were given trust by being voted into these positions and now they are using the power given to them against non-Muslims.”
According to a report in the Daily Mail the orders came from officials at the East London municipality called Tower Hamlets.
The town has established a reputation for being progressive by calling its get-together for staff at Christmas a “festive meal.” But now the e-mail instructions say drink and food should be restricted – for all council members no matter their religion – during Ramadan, and other accommodations are being made for Muslims.
Those accommodations include breaks right at sundown during several meetings so Muslims can eat immediately, and a reduction in the number of meetings so they “do not clash” with the Ramadan demands, according to the Daily Mail.
But even the more tolerant members of the Labour-run council now are rebelling, condemning the instructions as favoring one religious group over others.
Stephanie Eaton, leader of the Liberal Democrat faction, said she would be ignoring the restrictions, and continuing to eat food that traditionally has been provided to council members throughout their meetings.
“We fervently believe that the rules of any one religion should not be imposed upon others,” she told the paper. “I was rather disconcerted to see that the arrangements put in place for Ramadan, which we support for Muslim colleagues, have been imposed upon on councilors.”
“This sends out the wrong message to our community,” she told the paper. “Our community consists of a huge number of different religions, all of which should be valued, and no one religion should be accorded more status or influence than others.”
During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown, and this year’s holy period runs from the start of September. Council meetings routinely begin at 6:30 p.m. but it will not get dark for at least an hour, so Muslims are being granted a 45-minute break in the middle of the meeting to eat.
It was John Williams, the council’s head of democratic services, who sent the instruction. It said. “It is requested that members do not partake of any refreshments until after the Iftar refreshments are served.”
On the paper’s comment page, one participant said, “I do not care what a person (sic) faith is – just DO NOT impose them on me. … WHAT NEXT I ask!”