50% of UK Muslims struggle for food during Ramadan

April 5, 2022 - 18:10

TEHRAN- A UK Islamic charity group says half of all Muslim households in the country do not have enough money to eat after fasting every day during the holy month of Ramadan this year. 

British Muslims all over the UK just like other Muslims around the world will spend the next month fasting during daylight hours to commemorate one of the main pillars of Islam. 

Traditionally, Muslim people tend to have one meal just before dawn (the suhoor) and one meal just after sunset (the iftar). 

However, aid charity, Islamic Relief UK, has warned that many Muslim households in Britain will not be able to afford one of these two meals this month. The non-governmental organization has estimated some 1.6 million Muslim people already live in poverty and deprivation in the UK, 50 percent of the country’s Muslim population. 

This is in comparison to 18 percent of the general population as a whole who live in similar conditions. The gulf in living standards between white British citizens and British Muslim citizens from ministries groups has grown wider after over a decade of austerity measures that have hit the poorest the hardest.  

The charity group’s partners have also reported a significant increase in the use of food banks, with the crisis being exacerbated by the rising costs of living, the pandemic, and the crisis in Ukraine. 

British food banks are now more dependent on donations than ever before and are said to be working extra hours to provide meals to the fasting Muslims.  

Fahim Dahya, the logistics manager at Sufra NW10 food bank, is expecting a pandemic-level crisis warning "the bills are not going to hit until the end of this month, so we are bracing ourselves for a big explosion," he added, "after the pandemic hit, within a couple of months, we had a 400% increase."

It has changed the way the food banks operate, he noted, with less time now to even speak with their guests. "It used to be a calming experience, people would come, get some food, have a chat. We'd talk to them and find out about their situation, try to offer help. Now they're just feeling anxiety and uncertainty."

Another group that coordinates with Islamic Relief UK is: Give a Gift.
It has also issued a similar shocking warning saying many parents will have little or no food to break their fasts during the coming holy month, just so that their children are able to eat.

Inflation has seen soaring prices of household essentials that has severely impacted families' spending, with research from the Resolution Foundation suggesting households could be £1,000 worse off in 2022.

However, the disturbing aspect of the data is how British Muslims are suffering from desperate conditions in much higher numbers (per capita) than the wider British population.

Islamic Relief UK says “last week’s spring statement (one of the two budget statements the British Treasury makes each year to Parliament upon publication of economic forecasts) was an opportunity for the government to strengthen our social security systems and raise benefits payments to be, at least, in line with inflation. Instead, they’ve been handed a real term cut in their payments, and with inflation set to rise further this year, the cost of living crisis will become an emergency for the poorest families.”

“We urgently call on the UK government to review this decision and take the bold actions necessary to avoid pushing families into destitution.”

“This is especially important as Muslim families observe the holy month of Ramadan. Many will be fasting from sunrise to sunset and there is a real risk that families will not have enough food or will go without to feed their children.”

The director of Islamic Relief UK, Tufail Hussain, also says "families across the UK will be suffering as a result of record rates of inflation as well as increasing energy prices due to the war in Ukraine.”

He has urged the government to swiftly respond to the group’s warning saying “we urgently call on the UK government to review this decision and take the bold actions necessary to avoid pushing families into destitution. This is especially important as Muslim families begin to observe the holy month of Ramadan. Many will be fasting from sunrise to sunset and there is a real risk that families will not have enough food or will go without to feed their children."

Typically, Muslims tend to give more charity (also referred to as Zakat) to the poor during Ramadan. Over the past twelve months, requests for help to another of the Islamic Relief UK’s partners, the National Zakat Foundation have soared by a massive 70 percent. 

The foundation has been giving out grants from Zakat collected from British Muslims to those in need.

Sohail Hanif, chief executive of the National Zakat Foundation pointed out that in the UK "one of the key things is that zakat should be spent within the area where you live. Within the UK there are a lot of families struggling. We're really seeing it now."

Islamic Relief UK is urging the government to increase benefit payments as much as possible to the rate of inflation and to strengthen the UK’s social security systems further.

Many Muslims have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic including low-income families, the homeless, those suffering from domestic abuse, asylum seekers, and refugees who were already struggling to feed themselves.

With 46 percent of the British Muslim population living in the ten percent most deprived areas of the UK, hunger is unlikely to stop at Iftar for many families. 

According to the UK Office of National Statistics, Black, Asian, and other minority groups are increasingly likely to be in poverty than white British people. 

The government’s own Racial Disparity Audit found that the local authority with the highest number of homeless households per 1,000 households was Newham in the capital London - 9.4 per 1,000 - where Asian households make up the highest percentage of the local population. 

While only three percent of white British households live in damp properties, it is estimated that 10 percent of Bangladeshis, nine percent of Black Africans and eight percent of Pakistani households do too.

According to Hussein, earlier this year, Islamic Relief distributed food packs to families in the UK, as the cost of living and the effects of the pandemic impacted households on the Muslim community’s own doorstep. 

He says “there was long queues around the block of the Newham Community Project, of people waiting to receive food parcels,” Hussein says recalling hearing horrifying stories of parents going without food just so their children could eat, and “the hard choices people were making to either eat or pay their energy bills.”

The following week, the Islamic Relief UK director says he received a call from Newham Community Project saying that compared to late last year, the Community Project “have an extra 180 people regularly using their food bank and this number is growing every week.”

As the winter weather continues to bite, heating homes during Ramadan may be the first expense to be spared given the rising cost of energy.

The risks of child poverty are also heightened due to the high number of British Muslims with young families, with knock-on effects on youth education and health.