Category: Resources

Ramadan 2019: Child Fasting is Child Abuse

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.

CEMB’s Maryam Namazie and Sadia Hameed discussed the issue with young people from Muslim backgrounds on their way to Friday prayers.

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.

 

 

Celebrating Dissent – Conference on Free thought

August 30 until September 1st, De Balie, Amsterdam
 
Freedom of thought and expression is not a given, it requires continuous effort to safeguard it. Especially for those who dare to be different, to leave their religion or doctrine, to speak out and stand alone. In a time where dissenters continue to be threatened, silenced, excluded, intimidated and even killed for rejecting and criticising the prevailing opinion or religion, a celebration of free speech is an act of resistance.
 
This weekend, we will highlight these themes and give room to those who are threatened worldwide for thinking and speaking freely. The celebration will highlight and honour dissenters, raise key issues such as women’s resistance and rights, apostasy and blasphemy laws, identity politics, Islamophobia and secularism.
 
Over 40 speakers from the following countries: Australia, Bangladesh, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Kurdistan, Morocco, the Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, UK, Ukraine and USA.
 
This two-day event dedicated to the freedom of thought and in collaboration with Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) will include lectures, panel discussions, music, art, poetry, film, theatre, comedy and more. Ticket sales will start soon.
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Ramadan Advice For Educators

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.

 

Should you have any questions or require further information, please do not hesitate to contact me on sadia.hameed@ex-muslim.org.uk

 

Yours Faithfully,

Sadia Hameed

Spokesperson

Council of Ex Muslims of Britain

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