Skip to content

Non-Muslim Councillors told Not to Eat Snacks at Meetings during Ramadan

Printer-friendly version

Councillors in the Labour-led borough of Tower Hamlets were instructed to not to consume any refreshments during council meetings that take place during Ramadan “until after the Iftar refreshments are served”. The head of Democratic Services, John Williams, had said in an e-mail to all 51 councillors that he would like them to be sensitive to Muslim colleagues, who would be fasting until after dark during the Islamic “holy” month of Ramadan, which began on Monday, 1st September.


Certain council meetings have been cancelled or rescheduled so that Muslim councillors are able to go home in time for their fast-breaking evening meal. Special prayer and refreshment breaks of 45 minutes’ duration have also been included in the evening agendas. Tea, coffee, sandwiches and Iftar packs will be provided in a separate room; however non-Muslim councillors have been asked not to consume them until after sunset, partly to ensure that there is food left for fasting Muslims, a courtesy that was not observed last year.


During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from all food, drink, chewing gum, cigarettes and conjugal relations between sunrise and sunset. This period of fasting takes place in the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. As Ramadan starts at the beginning of September this year, there will be more daylight hours during which they must fast, so that Muslim councillors will be unable to eat until after the council’s debates have started.


Many Councillors have reacted against this saying it is a breach of their fundamental freedoms. Stephanie Eaton, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said she was disconcerted to see arrangements that had been put in place for Muslim colleagues being “imposed” on all councillors: "This is going too far. I am concerned that this gives the impression that the council is going to be Muslim-run and that Islam is given special status." She called the move "divisive" and "inappropriate". She added that she would be ignoring the request.


Conservative councillor Peter Golds said: "The council has been pretty slow during August so it is not a good time to reduce the number of meetings."


A council spokeswoman denied that non-Muslims were asked to observe Muslim fasting rules during Ramadan. "All that's being asked for is courtesy to be shown to the sensitivities around some councillors eating during council meetings whilst others in the room are fasting," she said. By way of contrast, Tower Hamlets Council has previously insisted that staff call their Christmas meal a "festive lunch".


A spokesman from the Muslim Council of Britain defended the local authority’s request, saying non-Muslims often refrain from eating in front of Muslims during Ramadan out of courtesy. He maintained that "practising faith is a person's free choice. You cannot impose it on anyone."


According to the 2001 census, 36% of the population in the London Borough regard themselves as Muslims, however the councillors are drawn from a broad range of backgrounds.


This ban appears to impose Islamic practice on non-Muslims, thus elevating Islam to a position above Christianity, Human Rights and even our secular government.

Twitter

Subscribe to our emails