I urge people, particularly during Ramadan, to find out more about Islam, increase your understanding and learning, even fast for a day with your Muslim neighbor and break your fast at the local mosque.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has recommended that non-Muslims take the opportunity of the month of Ramadan to fast, along with their Muslim neighbors, in order to promote "understanding between cultures."
Johnson told members of a London mosque that with Muslims so much a part of London life, it would be befitting for non-Muslims to get to know their fellow Londoners' customs and religion better.
"Whether it's in theater, comedy, sports, music or politics, Muslims are challenging the traditional stereotypes and showing that they are, and want to be, a part of the mainstream community," Johnson said. ''That's why I urge people, particularly during Ramadan, to find out more about Islam, increase your understanding and learning, even fast for a day with your Muslim neighbor and break your fast at the local mosque. I would be very surprised if you didn't find that you share more in common than you thought," he said.
'Muslims are at the heart of every aspect of society," he added. "Their contribution is something that all Londoners benefit from. Muslim police officers, doctors, scientists and teachers are an essential part of the fabric of London." There are currently 1.6 million Muslims in Britain, most of whom fast during Ramadan, Muslim community officials told reporters.
Not all Londoners embraced the idea. A local English Democrat leader, Steve Uncles, blasted Johnson's comments, saying that "the indigenous culture of this country is based on Christianity and Paganism. Of course, as an open and tolerant society, if people want to practice other religions, then good luck to them. But the state should not be funding them because otherwise we will lose our culture."
Although perhaps the most original, Johnson's is far from the only effort by Western politicians to honor Ramadan and Muslims. Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama hosted a Ramadan break the fast meal at the White House. "Islam, as we know, is part of America," Obama said during the dinner. "Together we have a responsibility to foster engagement grounded in mutual interest and mutual respect."
A report Saturday said that Egyptian police had arrested 155 people in the southern city of Aswan for not fasting during Ramadan. According to local reports, police have targeted people seen eating or drinking anything during daylight hours. According to one local official, the police campaign is evidence of an increased Muslim fervor among police, while another official said that the local government was trying to appease Islamists, who have increased in popularity in recent months.
There was no word on whether London Mayor Johnson was planning to suggest that Muslims and Christians fast on Yom Kippur in order to better understand their Jewish neighbors.