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Non-Muslims around the world take on Ramadan fasting challenge to help tackle Islamophobia

LONDON: Non-Muslims around the world took part in two Ramadan challenges this month designed to show solidarity with Muslims against a rising tide of Islamophobia, and improve religious tolerance and understanding.

People from more than 25 countries took part in the annual Fast For Unity and the 30-Day Ramadan Hijab Challenge initiatives, both of which are organized by the World Hijab Day Organization, a non-profit group that aims to counter discrimination against Muslims. They began on the first day of Ramadan, which this year fell on April 2.

The fasting challenge “invites non-Muslims to fast for a day, two, 10 or all 30 to experience how Muslims fast and go on a spiritual journey of self-reflection, self-discipline, and take a stand against Islamophobia,” the organization told Arab News.

British Singer Kate Stables was one of the non-Muslims who took part in the challenge. In a message posted on Instagram, she said this is the second year she has done so and added: “I’ve found that there’s a lot to learn from changing gear completely for a month and taking the time and space to think about what I’m doing and how I’m doing it, and the world and people around me.

“And as the name suggests, #FastForUnity is an initiative to dismantle Islamophobia and to join us together in our communities regardless of religion or differences. More acceptance and empathy everyone, please.”

The hijab challenge, also known as the #Hijab30, was launched in 2014. It invites “women of all ethnic backgrounds to don the hijab for 30 days to take a stand to end discrimination against women in hijabs and respect individual choices.”

The organization behind the challenges is based in New York and was founded in 2013. It organizes World Hijab Day on Feb. 1 each year, in recognition of the millions of Muslim women who choose to wear the traditional head covering, along with a number of other initiatives.

For example, it has also launched a campaign to raise money to support efforts to foster healthy environments for Muslim students in the US, and said that there has been an increase in donations during the last 10 days of Ramadan. These final days of the holy month hold special significance for Muslims, who believe that the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad on one of those days.

The World Hijab Day Organization said that a report published in 2021 by the Massachusetts branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations “revealed that 61 percent of Muslim students in the US have been mocked, verbally harassed or physically abused for their Muslim faith.”

Meanwhile the American Muslim Poll, carried by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding in 2020, found that “30 percent of Muslim students said that a teacher or other school official was the source of the bullying.”

The donations will go toward “creating educational workshops for schools to promote a safe, healthy and inclusive environment for Muslim students,” and provide “school administrators and teachers with tools to shatter bigotry, discrimination and prejudice, which will ultimately help their whole classroom learn better.”