Town Hall Members Forced to Fast During Ramadan

Country: United Kingdom

Date of incident: August 7, 2008

The members of Tower Hamlets Council in East London received an email asking them to observe restrictions implemented during Ramadan. Among these measures, Town Hall meetings were reduced and prayers were included in the evening in observance of the "holy month".

Stephanie Eaton, representative of the Liberal Democrats group was surprised that new rules "have been imposed upon all councillors" while only 36 % of the total city population is Muslim. "We object to the request that non-Muslim councillors observe the fasting rules for Ramadan. This sends out the wrong message to our community. Our community consists of a huge number of different religions, all of which should be valued, and no one religion should be accorded more status or influence than others," stated Eaton. Tower Hamlets' 51 councillors were asked to refrain from food as well, both out of courtesy to Muslims and to ensure enough food was left for them after sunset. In the letter signed by John Williams, the council's head of democratic services, councillors were requested to not take "any refreshments until after the Iftar refreshments are served." The support to the Muslim holiday contrasts with the previous request by the Council to call the traditional Christmas meal "festive lunch".