Ed Davey, acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, is observing Ramadan. Apparently other LibDems are too, and it might even be the whole party, but let’s focus on Ed Davey because: i) he is the Liberal Democrat acting leader; and ii) he had the courtesy to respond to a tweet.
The reported decision to observe Ramadan was to express solidarity with Muslims and to raise money for food charities to help alleviate the hunger of some of the most needy. LibDem Voice explains: “Muslims, and indeed many others, will be feeling a loss of community spirit. By taking part in this fast, and sharing our experiences over social media, we can help re-create the Ramadan spirit online.”
Now, all this is very worthwhile and wholesome: Ramadan is about community and charity; it is about devotion and discipline. To be hungry and thirsty focuses the mind on what is transcendent and holy. You can scorn if you like, and say, since Muslims have breakfast before sunrise and dinner after sunset, it’s just skipping lunch, which is an absolute cinch. But it is really rather arduous to go from dawn til dusk without even drinking water, especially when it’s 25°C, and for children it’s an especially tough discipline. You can also mock LibDem councillor Ian Manning, who tweeted his pre-dawn breakfast to the world, consisting of bacon and egg. There was absolutely nothing wrong with that: the LibDems aren’t becoming Muslims for Ramadan, they are expressing solidarity with their neighbours and raising money for the poor and needy. You can castigate him for eating pork and being religiously illiterate if you want, but his heart was in the right place, and he’s raising money for a food charity.
What are you doing?
“Am reminded again,” he tweeted “that no matter what good you try and do, some people will always look for the flaws.”
But he apologised for causing offence. And to question that isn’t simply looking for the flaws in his remorse; it is to probe why the LibDems are going a little beyond expressing solidarity with Muslims and raising money for charity; why they are subjecting themselves to the precepts of one religious group over any other; and why only Islam, which is theologically the most antithetical to the liberal and democratic values which the Liberal Democrats claim to espouse and seek to reify.
Ed Davey was asked: “Forgive me, I’m curious. Did you fast during #Lent? I’ll understand if you did but didn’t signal it. But did you tweet about fasting or #HolyWeek? Did you express empathy with Christians in isolation over Easter, the holiest time in the liturgical year?”
Sir Edward responded: “Yes.”
The problem is that those tweets don’t appear in his feed. He was further asked: “Thank you. I did read your tweets before asking, of course, and noted that you send greetings to Christians, Jews, Hindus and Sikhs on their festivals. Yet I couldn’t see tweets expressing your *participation* in eg a Lenten fast, Seder, Vishukkani, etc. Why only tweet #Ramadan?”
Sir Edward didn’t respond.
He may, of course, have fasted for Lent as Christians ought; that is, in private, keeping things between him and God so that no-one else knows (Mt 6:17f). But Sir Edward confirmed that he tweeted about fasting, yet that tweet appears to have gone missing. He also confirmed that he tweeted solidarity with Christians who were unable to worship during Holy Week, but that tweet appears to have gone missing, too.
The suspicion is that this patronising Ramadan political stunt (which is actually what it is) is rather more about winning Muslim votes than expressing empathetic solidarity with them in their coronavirus lockdown isolation, but it doesn’t seem to occur to Ed Davey (et al.) that for every three Muslim votes this stunt might win, it will probably cost them 300 Christian votes. It is one thing to become all things to all people so that by all means possible votes might be secured (cf 1Cor 9:20-23); it is quite another to set aside the Jews, Christian, Hindus and Sikhs, and focus on becoming a slave to Muslims alone (cf v19).
One wonders why Ed Davey doesn’t inculturate and express especial solidarity with the Ahmadi community, whom the Muslim Council of Britain exclude from their fraternity. Won’t they be feeling particularly isolated during Ramadan?