For years, this team has hosted an open iftar, or evening meal, every day of Ramadan. The interfaith event focuses on feeding the homeless and inviting people of many different backgrounds to bond over a meal during the holiest month on the Islamic calendar.
But on Sunday, in the aftermath of a terrorist attack that claimed the lives of seven people and injured dozens more, organizers wondered whether they should continue doing their work amid the risk of possible anti-Muslim retaliation.
“Most certainly,” the team announced on Facebook.
“We champion interconnectedness and solidarity within our communities, whilst being of service to our community. We shan’t be deterred,” Tabetha Bhatti, head of communications for RTP, told HuffPost. “Why should we be? What we do is necessary, beautiful and pure.”
Ramadan is a time of fasting, spiritual reflection, and increased charity for many of the world’s Muslims. Since it was founded in 2011 by University of London students, the Open Iftar campaign estimates it has hosted more than 40,000 guests for free during Ramadan. Participants break Ramadan’s daily fast together under a big tent in one of London’s parks. Over a meal of rice, meat, and vegetables, guests listen to lectures about religion and identity.
With the help of more than 1,000 volunteers, Open Iftars have been held in the United States, Turkey, Zambia, and Canada. This year, Open Iftars are taking place in London’s Malet Street Gardens and in Manchester, two U.K. cities that have been the sites of recent terror attacks.
Harassment and hate crimes against Muslims tend to skyrocket after terror attacks. Tell Mama, a U.K.-based organization that tracks hate incidents, said it received 139 reports of “anti-Muslim hate” in the week following a suicide bombing in Manchester that killed 22 people. The previous week, the organization had received just 25 reports.
Bhatti said that some Open Iftar volunteers have been concerned about safety, especially the safety of Muslim volunteers who wear the hijab.
As a result, the organization has asked local unarmed campus security officers to watch over the premises. They’ve also introduced a policy encouraging Muslim women volunteers, in particular, to travel in small groups when going home at the end of the night.
“Any such retaliatory hate crime is statistically committed against visibly Muslim women,” Bhatti said in an email. “Nevertheless, we remain committed to our initiative; the elation felt after a successful night at Open Iftar far outweighs any concerns one may have.”
The physical work of delivering food for the London Open Iftar hasn’t been affected by the attack, Bhatti said. Non-Muslim guests are attending Open Iftar events as before.
Bhatti said that the Open Iftar is committed to remaining a safe space for people of all faiths, races, beliefs, and ages. She noted that the 2011 Tottenham riots in London, which erupted after the police killing of a black man, coincided with that year’s Ramadan.
“There was a need for the community to band together then, and we did,” Bhatti wrote. “Similarly, this year, with the advent of these tragedies, there is a need for the community to unite, so we have banded together yet again.”
Language has been amended to more accurately describe the nature of RTP.