In the past years, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain has held fast-defying protests at embassies in solidarity with those who are persecuted for eating and drinking during Ramadan.
This year, CEMB’s fast-defying action included a protest at the Department for Education on 17th May to highlight the Department’s inaction with regards to child fasting in schools. Child fasting should be banned as it is harmful to children.
Our position is that if a child is sent to school without breakfast and not allowed to eat lunch or drink water whilst going about their normal school day for an entire month, this would rightly trigger safeguarding procedures and be considered a form of neglect. However, when it comes to BME children of religious parents, the Department for Education readily turns a blind eye.
Being forced to not eat or drink water for an entire month for 12+ hours a day is clearly harmful to children and child development. It causes sickness, dizziness, migraines, sunstrokes, lack of focus and tiredness as a result of dehydration or lack of sustenance. It also can lead to depression, anxiety, mood swings, irritability, anger, apathy, reduced alertness, diminished comprehension… Children have been known to faint as have teachers who are fasting.
Adults, of course, can fast if they choose. It’s important to remember that there is a corresponding right NOT to fast if one chooses not to. Nonetheless, when it comes to children, imposing fasting rules is child abuse and neglect.
The Department for Education has a duty of care for school children and must act immediately to put child welfare above religious demands of the child’s parents.
CEMB also published Ramadan Advice for Educators, held a fast-defying picnic and published #RamadanStories like the below to raise a discussion on the right to not fast and the pressures involved in fasting.
CEMB’s presence on BBC Woman’s Hour to discuss our position was cancelled an hour before the programme.