Pitchside prayers and joy as UK breaks Ramadan fast at public iftars

Everywhere from football stadiums to top museums provide venues to bring together people of all faiths during holy month

Queens Park Rangers FC celebrate open Iftar

Queens Park Rangers FC celebrate open Iftar
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Brothers Ilyas, 7, and Haris, 6, donned their QPR shirts and proudly made their way pitchside at Lotfus Road stadium in west London, not to play football but to enjoy an iftar.

Their father, Imtiaz Ahmad, who is the club doctor at English Championship side Queens Park Rangers, took them along to the famous club's ground to share in the event which aims to bring the community together.

They were joined by QPR and Moroccan national team player Ilias Chair, who told The National that he was proud to be a part of the event.

He said he enjoys participating in the Ramadan open iftar gatherings at the club as it gives him an opportunity to meet fans — young and old — and answer their questions.

“It makes me proud to represent the club and myself and my religion at an event like this,” Chair said.

The gathering is part of a range of iftar events at prominent locations across the UK, organised by the Ramadan Tent Project.

Over the holy month, open iftars are scheduled at venues including Wembley Stadium, The British Library, Shakespeare's Globe theatre and the Royal Albert Hall, all in London, plus other locations.

At Loftus Road, Omar Salha, founder and director of the Ramadan Tent Project, told The National that QPR represents something special to the project as it was the first club to host the gathering.

“We don't see this as an exclusive Muslim community event. This is an inclusive event where people from all faiths and none can come and join to create a better, more cohesive society,” he said.

“Having these events gatherings we aim to alleviate some of the misconceptions people may have towards Islam and Muslims.”

Another child, Amelia, enthusiastically shared her thoughts of breaking her fast with such a large crowd — especially as this was her first time in a football stadium.

She thought it was a crazy idea having iftar in a stadium, but was happy to be there.

“I am excited to open my iftar with everyone here and also excited to be spending time in the stadium with my family,” Amelia said.

Her father, Adnan, agreed that it was a unique place to have iftar and that he was grateful for the opportunity. They didn't want to miss attending, he said, as living in London often results in leading a “silo life”.

Adnan said he had made the decision to bring his family along, with the intention of fostering a sense of community and solidarity in the true spirit of Ramadan.

“It's a difference concept having iftar in a stadium, but it's good to be here,” Adnan told The National.

“It's great seeing so many people going into new spaces and their faces light up when they walk in and have the opportunity to visit venues they have never been to before.”

Breaking bread and building bridges: UK embraces Ramadan iftars

Communities across the UK are celebrating Ramadan through a variety of iftar events, bringing together people from all backgrounds and faiths to break bread and share in the spirit of the holy month.

From charity fund-raisers to cultural events, these iftars offer a unique opportunity to experience the diversity of Muslim communities in the UK and learn more about the traditions and customs of Ramadan.

The National took a closer look at some of the iftar events that have taken place across the country and explore how they have brought people together.

Chelsea FC

Chelsea FC hosted an iftar event as a part of the club's joint campaign with Chelsea Foundation's No To Hate group, which promotes religious tolerance and opposes hate and discrimination.

The club's Stamford Bridge home in west London became the first Premier League stadium to host an open iftar event.

The event featured speeches from Lord Daniel Finkelstein, chairman of the Chelsea Foundation, and former player Paul Canoville.

“We are a big community with lots of supporters from different backgrounds and we want to honour, respect and share the joy of every single fan,” Lord Finkelstein said.

“It’s very special to be the first Premier League club to host an open iftar and something we are extremely proud about.”

No 10 Downing Street

The official residence of the Prime Minister of Britain hosted its first iftar event organised in tandem with Lancaster House government office, the British Foreign Office said.

Prominent Muslim leaders were invited to both venues and arrangements were made for athan, the call to prayer, and Quran recitations.

Greg Hands, chairman of the Conservative Party, acknowledged Muslims' contributions to Britain and called Islam a religion of peace.

Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch and Business Minister Dominic Johnson paid tribute to Muslim communities in Britain. They expressed their determination to make London the centre of Islamic finance in the world.

Sheikh Hani Saad Mahmoud, Imam of Al Azhar University in Egypt, was a special guest and gave a recitation from the Quran.

The events were billed as part of the government's commitment to promoting harmony and inclusivity, recognising Ramadan as part of the religious and social culture of the nation.

Traditional Pakistani cuisine was prepared by celebrity chef and restaurateur Suleman Raza.

Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum in central London, played host to an open iftar on the second day of Ramadan.

More than 500 people gathered to break their fast together at one of the capital's most popular cultural spaces. The museum provided a stunning backdrop for the event, with guests sitting down to a meal of dates and traditional Ramadan food after sunset.

The Victoria and Albert has long been a hub for artistic and cultural events in London, and this evening was no exception as it attracted people from many walks of life.

Brighton and Hove Albion FC

Premier League club Brighton and Hove Albion hosted its first iftar meal a day after Chelsea — becoming the first football club outside London to hold such an event.

More than 400 members of the local Muslim community, including players, attended the iftar at the Amex, on the south coast.

The event, which was also organised by Ramadan Tent Project, featured a call to prayer at the pitchside.

Bradford Cathedral

More than 400 people attended an iftar event at Bradford Cathedral, in West Yorkshire, northern England, on the first day of Ramadan.

The event was a collaboration between the Open Tent Project and Bradford-based sustainability organisation Green Street.

Guests included Labour MP Imran Hussain, artistic director of Bradford Literature Festival Syima Aslam and the head of Bradford City Council Susan Hinchcliffe.

Iftar meals included biryani, pakora, roast potatoes, kebabs and desserts.

Ramadan Tent Project

The Ramadan Tent Project, which is celebrating a decade of open iftars this year, first started by a group of students who wanted to connect international Muslim students living alone in the UK during the holy month of Ramadan.

It has grown over a decade to be more inclusive and hosted in a number of cities including London, Birmingham, Cambridge and Manchester.

The organisers' dream is to host the event in further prominent locations across the country — and hope that one day they can welcome their guests to Buckingham Palace in central London.

Updated: March 31, 2023, 9:06 PM