“…in fact I felt like I had in a way come home…” Councillor Gavin Clayton

Despite having grown up with a Muslim stepfather in Manchester in the 1970s and early 1980s I had never been to a Muslim community event, let alone one that played a part in the fast during Ramadan.

Back then the fact that I was growing up in a culturally mixed household was more of an oddity than a cause for celebration. Racism was rife in all forms and the ‘difference’ that my home represented was a challenge as a kid growing up.

So, when I received the invitation from Cam Harmony to join the Muslim community of Cambourne for a Community Iftaar, I was both excited and intrigued… and quickly googling what an Iftaar was?!

What I found was a joyous and inclusive event where I was welcomed warmly and felt completely at my ease…in fact I felt like I had in a way come home…the clothes, greeting phrases and of course the home-made Biryanis!

Cllr Gavin Clayton
Councillor Gavin Clayton

The address from Dr. Timothy Winter aka Shaykh Abdal Hakeem Murad about the New Cambridge Mosque was interesting and I will certainly take a look next time I am down Mill Road, but what I found more pertinent was the discussion on the meaning and experience of fasting during Ramadan.

I had never really considered that it is something many cultures have engaged in for millennia.

For example, Christians have the month of lent and I am familiar with images of the fasting Buddha.

The role of fasting in religion is concerned with sacrifice and cleansing, but in a modern world where (if you have the money) every kind of food and drink is within reach all the time it can also play a part in redefining one’s relationship to food and what constitutes nourishment, need and fulfilment.

At the Iftaar all these elements were present and there was a real air of anticipation as the time to break the 18 hours long Fast (Iftaar) approached.

I had not fasted, but I felt the energy in the room change and the communal experience was a very heartening thing to be part of. The initial prayer happened very subtly and allowed for quiet personal reflection…then the look on faces as they bit into a dried date was a simple yet meaningful act.

It placed nature’s bounty, nourishment (both physical and spiritual) at the centre of everyone’s thoughts and it was a real honour to be part of it.

In an event such as the Iftaar it allows a community to join together and provide for one another…what a generous act and one that helps to cement community bonds.

It was a joyful, open and inclusive event. A good model for Cambourne as we grow together over the coming years.

Now I look forward to the Eid Fair on June 17….and hopefully more Biryanis!!

Gavin Clayton is a Councillor with the South Cambridgeshire District Council (SCDC).

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‘Magical and educational Iftaar’… Councillor Mark Howell

I was extremely fortunate to be invited to the Ramadaan Iftaar on Saturday, 19th May at Cambourne Hub. I must admit that it was magical and really special where I felt exceptionally honoured to be part of this celebration, because it ensured me how the community work together.

It was indeed a wonderful evening. I had an extremely educational time which I found fascinating and delightful. I felt extremely privilege and honoured to be in attendance.

Cllr Mark Howell
Councillor Mark Howell

It was just something which I will never forget. I feel extremely honoured to have been there.

And if you haven’t been invited then ask somebody because I know this, you would be told yes, come along because people want to explain and want to show what they do. You can ask any questions.

I asked some basic questions – why do you do this, why you do that to some of the most eminent people, and they were delighted to explain why that happens.

It was really an eye opener for me to see first time ever in my life Muslims praying live in congregation. I felt exceptionally honoured person to witness this religious practice of Muslims.

I do hope, I get invited again, and I hope I get invited for Eid celebrations, I hope to get invited for everything, I hope to get invited for all these magical events.

Mark Howell is a Councillor for Cambridgeshire County Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council.