Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending an open Iftar dinner at Nottingham Trent University (NTU), in partnership with Muslim Hands open kitchen. It was an evening of communal celebration, where Muslims and non-Muslims gathered to experience Iftar together.
It was heart-warming to see so many individuals come as their authentic selves, and it was a great opportunity for those who weren’t Muslim to get involved and see how we break our fast and pray.
We were joined by wonderful speeches from NTU faith and the Global Lounge, talking about the importance of the event and the work that NTU do to be a more inclusive university. We also heard from a few individuals in NTU’s Islamic society talking about the impact of the society and how the events have helped them. The founder of Muslim hands, Syed Lakhte Hassanain, also shared a few words before Iftar time.
Shortly after, we all sat together in communion to break our fast with some dates, water and delicious biryani, which was supplied by the Muslim Hands open kitchen in Nottingham, which you can read more about here.
Collaborative events like this are crucial to strengthening our community’s understanding and bringing together people from all backgrounds, which is what we saw at this event. We have more that unites us than separates us, highlighted by Fortune, a faith ambassador at NTU I spoke too.
‘I personally volunteered for the Iftar event because, as a faith person, I understand what a faith celebration is. Iftar is an important event and has brought about so many people of different cultures and societies today. We have Jewish people in here today celebrating the community.
I am a part of NTU faith and this is what we live for, this is what we do. It is a celebration of faith and is wonderful because you see the Muslim community shine; you see the togetherness. When people say ‘Muslim’, sometimes people put hatred behind that, but when you come in here, it’s pure love all around. You see that togetherness, that oneness, everyone is equal and happy eating together.
You can’t come in here and say ‘who’s a Christian, who’s a Muslim. It’s just a celebration of love and that is what God is; love.‘
Nottingham Trent’s multi faith staff, volunteers and faith team work incredibly hard to promote inclusivity at NTU, which has made NTU one of the most diversely celebrated Universities in the country.
Clive, NTU multi faith manager, shared a few words with me on the work NTU are doing to promote a more safe and inclusive University experience for people of faith.
“I think what was really good tonight was it was Muslims leading the Iftar, and there was also the opportunity for non-Muslims to participate in that as observers. It’s really exciting to see other members of the University here too.
At the heart of what we do, my role as multifaith manager is about promoting and allowing students to be authentically themselves in their story and journey of faith, whatever level that’s at.”
Another way Nottingham Trent University promote diversity is through society work, which is student led. NTU’s Islamic society (isoc) have been having regular Iftars during Ramadan for students who are living away from home.
“Isoc are doing a great job at running Iftar,” says Clive.
“Especially the last 10 days. As part of NTU faith, we were very much on board with running Iftar; we see it as a really good opportunity for the Uni to understand more about Ramadan and its significance of it.“
Partaking in Ramadan as a student living away from home and with little/no Muslim friends can be an incredibly difficult feat. This is exactly why the work isoc are doing to prevent young Muslims from feeling isolated from their community is great.
One student shared how the Islamic society and the daily Iftars have supported him as he spends Ramadan without his family for the second year in a row.
‘I am from Indonesia but my family live in Qatar. For the past 18 years, I’ve been able to spend Ramadan in a Muslim country. I didn’t know how much of a privilege that was until I came here. I was spending it alone and it made my Ramadan almost unpleasant.
When you’re used to spending Ramadan with your family, spending Ramadan alone is very emotionally hard for you, and these iftars mitigate that issue. I’ve been attending isoc’s Iftars this past week and it’s been such an unforgettable experience.’
The event couldn’t have happened without the support of the volunteers, faith ambassadors, support from NTU and Muslim Hands, so a big thanks to them.