Managing to offend 1.6 billion people in just 140 characters is quite a feat. That’s what Katie Hopkins got up to this week when she took to Twitter to make mock of the Muslim holy month, Ramadan.
While many Ramadan jokes have been making their way around Twitter, most by Muslims themselves using the popular hashtag ‘#RamadanProblems,’ Katie certainly crossed the line from humour to highly offensive. Making herself every Muslim’s own ‘Ramadan problem’, she’s been tweeting images of cake with captions stereotyping Muslims. Her messages were not only distasteful and insulting, but screamed of a person who does not understand the true meaning of why Muslims all over the world fast.
Fasting also encompasses refraining from anything ill-natured or excessive including bad habits
The ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan is the month where Muslims are prohibited from eating and drinking during daylight hours. The fast begins in the early hours of the morning, when breakfast (Suhoor) is eaten, until the sun sets, when the fast is broken with dinner (Iftar). The month is sacred as it was during this time that the Islamic holy book, the Quran, was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.
Fatima Anwar, Head of Development at charity organisation CARE Pakistan explains: "The meaning of fasting is mostly focused on understanding the value of what we have as a result of its absence. It’s about realising how it feels for those who aren’t as fortunate. In an age where we’re used to instant gratification for everything, fasting is a great tool to teach patience. The value of anything diminishes instantly if it is instantly accessible and fasting reinstates that value."
Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam and is spiritually far more complex than just emptying the physical body. Fasting also encompasses refraining from anything ill-natured or excessive; including bad habits such as smoking. Fasting is carried out by the entire body; the mouth refrains from foul language and backbiting, the mind refrains from unsavoury thoughts, the feet take you to permissible places and the hands carry out righteous deeds. Fasting actually surpasses hunger and encourages Muslims to understand and properly execute humility, selflessness and mostly, patience (perhaps this is why Katie has managed to escape the limelight relatively unscathed).
Ramadan allows each Muslim to cleanse their soul and focus their attention on God. For the modern day British Muslim, Ramadan has truly become a time of appreciation for religion. In fact, many Muslims are adopting ‘Ramadan Resolutions’ where they will give up something for the month – be it television, listening to music or even playing video games, and devote their time to reading more about Islam and praying.
There has certainly been an influx of young Muslims choosing to fast this year. In fact, the popularity of #RamadanProblems highlights this. The trend went viral at the start of the holy month and has since proven that this spiritual time encourages a bond between young Muslims through shared experience. While the trend highlights everyday struggles while fasting, it represents a much more laidback generation of Muslims who appreciate their religion but don’t take themselves too seriously.
The trend has seen modern-day Muslims contributing funny comments like:
"These fasts are not very fast are they #RamadanProblems"."I think I just watched my clock go from 2:54 to 2:53. I'm not joking #RamadanProblems"."Staring at the fridge like it's your ex #RamadanProblems".
With the slow but steady upsurge in negativity about Islam in the media, there has also been an equal amount of youngsters pledging allegiance to Islam – so where has this sudden rise in religious consciousness come from?
Fatima tells us: ‘There’s a lot more awareness amongst young British Muslims. Islam is in the media a lot more and not always in a positive way. In reaction to this, it makes people want to reassert their identity and protect it. To feel alone in that situation is very difficult because you can feel like you’re being attacked or victimised. This creates opportunities for discussion because liberal minded Muslims can share experiences and establish connections. To summarise, more youngsters are turning to religion because it’s about identity – British Muslims are reasserting their identity of being both British and Muslim.’
The onset of Ramadan is often greeted by an extraordinary sense of enthusiasm and gratitude amongst older generations. This year, the feeling of religious eagerness among young Muslims has manifested itself on social media. #RamadanProblems going viral not only shows that Muslims are a witty bunch, but are also happily willing to embrace their religion.
#RamadanProblems is a welcome counter-argument to Katie Hopkins' odious tweets stereotyping Muslims as ‘grumpy’ and ‘violent’ because they’re not eating. The trend highlights how young Muslims are ambassadors for their faith and are proving once again, it is possible to maintain a sense of humour and be Muslim, even if you’re not allowed to eat or drink during the day.
Fatima continues: ‘This generation of young Muslims definitely show that being Muslim is nothing like what the media represent it as. It doesn’t necessarily categorise you – you’re just another person in British society – but following a specific faith.’
Once you look past the humour, it is plain to see that there is a level of pride behind the tweets. The public declaration of religion shows that youngsters are happy to be Muslim and partake in the most holy month in the Islamic calendar. #RamadanProblems is the 21st century way changing stereotypes which have been cultivated by negativity and is a great way to encourage positive discussion.
CARE Pakistan is a charity which provides free education to children in schools across Pakistan. If you would like to donate, please visit www.carepakistan.org.uk