1st May 2019

Dear educational providers,

Ramadan is fast approaching, a holy month within Islam requiring Muslims to fast from dawn to dusk, which in the summer months can be up to 13+ hours without food and water.

The Minnesota semi-starvation study found that by reducing an individual’s daily calories to half their daily allowance had dramatic effects such as:

  • A substantial increase in food preoccupations, such as odd eating behaviours, obsessions in food/cookbooks/menus, spending the day planning how and what they would eat, binge eating, reports of feeling “out of control with food” and feelings of guilt and shame following a binge.
  • Emotional and personality changes included, depression, anxiety, mood swings, irritability, anger, apathy, hygiene neglect and some psychotic symptoms
  • Social changes in behaviour included being Withdrawn, isolated, decreased sense of humour and increased self-criticism
  • Cognitive Changes included impaired concentration, decreased alertness, reduced comprehension, impaired judgment
  • Physical changes, included gastrointestinal discomfort, dizziness, headache, cold, hair loss, visual & auditory disturbances, loss of muscle mass and decreased basal metabolic rate by 40%.

Semi starvation in a medically controlled environment had such drastic effects, but crucially the participants were still permitted to drink water throughout the day during the study. Something that fasting children are not permitted to do.

During Ramadan, children from Muslim families are sent to school, without food or water under the excuse of fasting and religious requirement. They are expected to carry on with their day as normal without nourishment and hydration. There have been cases of children passing out from dehydration and hunger in schools during the long and uncomfortable summer days. If this was a child from a non-Muslim family, this would immediately trigger safeguarding concerns regarding child neglect, without the abuse being subjected to cultural or religious debate.

These double standards are an abuse of children from Muslim families, first by their parents and then by education providers. This year we ask that children’s health, wellbeing and educational attainment be prioritise ahead of the religious and cultural beliefs of their parents and families. Remember, schools are for learning, not for pandering to the beliefs of the parents. Adults are free to fast if they wish, however, they should not have the right to force children into religious practices that will hinder their education and wellbeing.