Two weeks ago, British charity Muslim Aid and member of the Muslim Charities Form, published an eye opening report highlighting the response and the critical role that the voluntary sector had in responding to the Grenfell fire. It underlined the failings of the local council and the central government in their response to the tragedy that took place on the 14th June 2017 and its aftermath, emphasising the role of the charity sector and countless volunteers in trying to compensate for these failings.
Nearly a year on from the Grenfell disaster, just past the midway point of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, it is more important now than ever, to uncover what this month is truly about, and to consider the capabilities of the Muslim charity sector and organisations, throughout Britain, working for the social good at home and abroad. The essence of Ramadan is beyond denying our bodies food and water from dawn until dusk; Ramadan is a month of reflection, of renewing our intentions. It is a month of compassion and charity, of standing up for what is good and right. It is about standing against injustice, inequality and oppression and giving a voice to those on the receiving end of it. In many ways, the report published by Muslim Aid is a testimony to these values – and should inspire those of us who work in the charity sector to, as the report puts it, ‘continuously strike the right balance between practical action and finding different ways of speaking out in support of the needs and rights of the people who are affected.’
At the Muslim Charities Forum, we estimate that in the month of Ramadan, British Muslim charities raise around £100 million for causes both at home and abroad. Ramadan has the ability to unlock the true collective potential of Muslims across Britain. We should proudly celebrate the dedication of Muslims in Britain, even more so when we consider the context of poverty and discrimination faced by many across Britain. Muslims are amongst the most deprived in the country, facing discrimination in employment, education, and housing, yet despite this, Muslims consistently give more than any other faith group in Britain.
The institutional discrimination and inequality faced by those in Grenfell is a reality felt by many across Britain. The Grenfell disaster is more than a tragic fire that took the lives of at least 72 people. Grenfell is a reflection of the stark inequality that exists in Britain. Whilst the charity sector, volunteers, and so on, cannot be expected to solve these problems, it is in the interests of all, that we do more to highlight, speak out and support those affected. We must speak out if we are truly dedicated to ensuring that these social problems and that this inequality faced by so many is alleviated.
With this said, we must not fall into the trap of speaking over who we seek to support. If we have learnt anything from the terrible events that took place at Grenfell, it is of the incredible power and unity of the local community, and of local organisations, such as the Al Manar Mosque and St Clements Church, in helping survivors, and of acting as hubs for the community to organise for justice and change. These organisations inspire us give us a glimpse of what the future could be for Muslim organisations and the charity sector. We must reflect on how mosques can become central pillars in supporting and offering valuable services to the local community, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, rather than just places to pray and go. The Muslim Council of Britain’s recent conference ‘Our Mosque, Our Future’, offering a very valuable insight into ensuring our mosques are greater reflective of its communities diverse needs. When we help bridge the gap between our organisations and the communities they represent, we can do a better service to these communities and the wider public, by empowering their voices and their experiences.
In the second half of this sacred month and especially in the last 10 days, it is time to reflect on the remarkable potential Muslims in Britain have, through utilising the potential of our mosques, our organisations and charities, to work towards the common good, both at home and abroad. The community spirit of Ramadan reminds us that we cannot sit idly by. We must be proactive, we must have open ears, and open hearts, we must act to make our world a better place.