By Dr. Mozammel Haque
The first ever celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr festival in Trafalgar Square, organized by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) with the support of Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, held on Saturday, the 28th of October, 2006, was attended by more than 2,000 Londoners of Muslims, Christians and other religious groups. The event included live entertainment, a street bazaar and exhibitions and displays about Islam.
Welcoming the Muslim community at the Trafalgar Square and saying Eid Mubarak to them, Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, said, "Eid-ul-Fitr is the most auspicious day of the Muslim calendar. It is a day of great joy and serves as a reminder to people of all faiths of the importance of peace, compassion, unity and charity."
London Mayor Ken Livingstone said, "So many Londoners, Muslims and non-Muslims, gather in the Trafalgar Square for the very first time of what would be an annual event of myself and my successors to celebrate Muslims in London and the contributions that Islam has given to all humanity over more than thousand years. It is particularly important that we celebrate Islam in London today given the background of hysterical Islamophobia that we see so much of the British media. Here in this city we had never asked the Jews to remove his skull cap or Christians to remove their cross and we shall not ask Muslim women to remove their veils. This city is strong. This is the only place in Europe that is productive and competitive as the United States of America. It has achieved that dynamism by being open and accepting."
Mayor of London also said, "It is an absolute nonsense that so much of the British media portrays Islam as the voice of a violent minority when the whole history of Islam is committed to peace and co-existence that Islam has given us so much of science, mathematics and our culture. Here in this square - the Trafalgar Square - Trafalgar, the name first coined by Muslim geographers when they described the Gulf as Trafalgar. This Square has a Muslim name."
Mayor Livingstone also said, "Islam is one of the world's great cultures which have made incalculable contributions to world science, learning, literature, art and commerce from which every country benefits. London's Muslim communities continue to make a major contribution to London's success as a great world city. It is therefore fitting that this year's Eid celebrations, will, for the first time, take place in Trafalgar Square."
Speaking about the Clash of Civilizations first articulated by the right-wing academic 15 years ago who said there must inevitably be the clash between the West and Islam and the clash between the West and China, Mayor of London "challenge them to debate this. Here in this city we live side by side and we look forward to maximize the publicity of that debate. London proves to be a different way forward. Under our skin we are all part of one humanity race. This city demonstrates that every day by million different acts of friendship, kindness and love that bring us together."
"London's prosperity as the world's greatest international business centre, as well as its social harmony, entirely depends on our ability to welcome and respect people from all over the world. In London everyone is welcome to be themselves and to express their religious and cultural identity as long as they do not infringe the freedom of others. London will not be diverted from this course of tolerance by calls for cultural and religious discrimination by any politicians and sections of the media," said Ken Livingstone.
Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari
While conveying Eid Mubarak to all the people gathered at the Trafalgar Square, London, Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, said, "The Muslim Council of Britain is delighted to be working with the Mayor of London in welcoming Londoners from all backgrounds to the Eid in the Square event to commemorate the end of the fasting month of Ramadan."
Dr. Abdul Bari also told me in an interview, "This country is a country of freedom of expression and the freedom of choice. So individuals, men or women, whatever they choose, I don't think politicians here should try to impose certain dress code on individual, male or female, Muslim or non-Muslim. This debate has taken unfortunately a very negative direction. I hope Muslims and non-Muslims in this country do participate in this debate in a positive and constructive way."
"Londoners, Muslims and non-Muslims; we all are human beings; are working together, living together in our neighbourhood, in our university, in our workplaces. If we can work together as an ordinary human being, we can learn how to work together in the city, in the country, the same way. So Muslims and non-Muslims should come together, share their experiences, share their joys and happiness, especially on occasion like this so that we can work collectively for the harmony and peace in the society," Dr. Abdul Bari told me in an interview.
Mike O'Brian, Solicitor General
Congratulating Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London and the Muslim Council of Britain for organizing such an event at the Trafalgar Square and conveying Eid Mubarak to the Muslim Community, Solicitor General Mike O'Brian said, "At a time when every morning some Muslims wake up and listen to the Radio have been annoyed and feel vulnerable about the latest controversy about Islam. Is not it great that under such circumstances we can gather here at the centre of what has been in many ways be the focal point of national emotion Trafalgar Square, a place where people have gathered in order to express their views and here together to celebrate Muslim event of Eid ul Fitre. Eid ul Fitr is a one of the important of the religion of Islam in Britain today."
He also added, "Together with Christianity, Judaism and other religions, Islam has become one of the mainstream religions in our country and Muslims are therefore entitled to celebrate their great festival here."
Solicitor General also said, "Eid ul Fitre at the end of Ramadan is the special month for Muslims. Ramadan was the month in which, so I am told, the Qur'an was begun to reveal to the holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). It is therefore a month which in many ways symbolizes the values of Islam. It is a month of charity and giving, it is a month of sacrifice and contemplation. These are values that we can all learn from in a troubled world at a time when many Muslims feel vulnerable."
While acknowledging the invaluable contributions the Muslim community is making to this country, Mike O'Brian said that we must carry out conversations in a respectful and polite way. "Muslims are contributing in sports, in culture, in public services, in police, in army, in public services, in trade and in commerce and we should acknowledge that contributions to this country."
Solicitor General Mike O'Brian also urged to reflect what Islam has to say to us. "All of us can learn from some of the words of the holy Prophet - a man who taught that even a smile is charity, who preached that no man is a true believer if he sleeps while his neighbour, whether he is Muslim or non-Muslim, remains hungry. I am told that the Prophet after every prayer used to say the following: "O God! You are Peace. And from You comes Peace. And to You goes back Peace. So cause me to live in peace."
Lord Mohammed Sheikh from the Conservative Party .
Lord Mohammed Sheikh, a Peer of the House of Lords from the Conservative Party appointed in last June 2006 is also a chair the Conservative Muslim Forum and the Ethnic Diversity Council Party, said in his speech, "We are all in promoting harmony, racial, religious and interfaith dialogue. Early in the week the festival of Eid ul Fitre which marks of the month of Ramadan. Fasting in Ramadan is the fourth pillar of Islam. The month of Ramadan enables us to purify our soul and bodies and we learn self-control and be thankful to Allah Almighty for His Divine Mercy. It is also a month of forgiveness giving off charity, which is of course, a good remember. It is a month we read regularly Qur'an, we also listen the recital of the Qur'an during the reading of Taraweeh prayer."
Simon Hughes, President of Liberal Democrats
While conveying his Eid greeting to the Muslim community, the President of Liberal Democrats, Simon Hughes, urged Muslims to "to come into politics, we need many more Muslims in politics, more Muslim women in politics, please think of becoming involve in politics particularly the women. We have still far too much male-dominated society and the males are the minority, we are the minority. And women need to take that place. You have a guarantee: you are entitled, as the Mayor of London said earlier, not just to have your belief in your mind and in your heart and in your words but also to declare what faith you belong to and people in this country should be entitled to wear the culture of their faith, whatever the faith. And that's a right I believe the civilized country must respect. So have a wonderful day love each other and Eid Mubarak louder, louder and louder as the days go on and come back every year in greater numbers."
Sir Iqbal Sacranie
Sir Iqbal Sacranie, former Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, told me in an interview, "This is another example when the Muslim community is really taking a positive step in getting the message of Islam across the wider society. We are working together with the Mayor of London. This event is jointly organized by the Muslim Council of Britain and the Mayor of London. This is for the first time such an event is being held at the Trafalgar Square. Alhamdo Lillah, of course, besides the celebration part of the Eid, families coming together it is a joyous occasion. But it is also a day when the message of Islam goes to the wider society and Trafagar Square being a central place for the society at large; it is a pivotal place for getting together; it is fantastic to see, of course, fraction of the Muslim community and also non-Muslim community gathering together for one purpose and celebrating and getting the message across."
Concluding the celebration of Eid event at the Trafalgar Square, Mr. S.M.T. Wasti, Advisor to the Secretary General of MCB, said, "I want to assure you that the present conditions that portray a negative image of Islam and Muslims by certain sections of the media and politicians will not be successful in demonizing us, Insha Allah - there is always light after the darkness therefore do not be demoralized - peace will prevail."