A Social Distant Ramadan 2020


As we begin Ramadan 2020, I remember that the first four doctors who lost their lives while treating patients with COVID-19 were Muslims; Dr Adil El Tayar, Dr Amged El Hawrani, Dr Habib Zaidi and Dr Alfa Sa’adu. They all left behind grieving families who will be spending Ramadan without one of their loved ones.

Author J.K. Rowling paid tribute to the first three doctors who died by saying, “May we NEVER forget what immigrants, and their children and grandchildren, have given this country, especially our health service.”

Whilst COVID-19 has touched the lives of people of all faiths and nationalities, it has now been recognized that the Black and Ethnic Minority community has been disproportionately affected. Recently, Head of the BMA, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, asked the government to investigate why more black and ethnic minority doctors are dying from COVID-19. Although NHS England and Public Health England will be leading an internal enquiry into the reasons why this is the case I and the Liberal Democrat Campaign for Racial Equality hope that this review will strike a balance between investigating clinical causes and socio-economic factors.

Nevertheless, lack of appropriate PPE is an issue affecting many hospitals and care homes nationally, which has had an adverse impact on staff and patients of all denominations. As part of our work through the Liberal Democrat Coronavirus Community Taskforce we are sharing good practice, models of engagement and raising awareness with our members to support the communities they live in through the pandemic.

This year presents exceptional challenges for Muslim health care professionals who will be working in the NHS while fasting (abstaining from food and water from dawn until sunset). Although fasting is obligatory for all able-bodied Muslims under normal circumstances, health care workers’ own health may be at risk when fasting, due to the requirement of wearing PPE for extended periods. The British Board of Scholars and Imams (BBSI) has consulted with front-line clinicians in acute care settings such as A&E and ITU, and although the guidelines it has produced are not all workable, they have agreed that if a person cannot adapt to fasting during shifts, it is permissible to not fast on those days, but when not at work, then it remains obligatory to fast.

Regardless of faith, the duty of care towards patients and respecting other work colleagues must always take priority.

Ramadan is a time for spiritual reflection, prayer, undertaking good deeds and spending time with family and friends, but this year we will be celebrating in a different way. One of my challenges as a councillor and community leader is making sure that residents can break their fast together whilst being apart. For those who are not digitally inclusive, and do not have access to FaceTime or WhatsApp video, I have been teaching them how to use Zoom, ensuring that no one is left out.

This year, we have all had to make sacrifices and do what we can to help others whilst maintaining social distance but let us hope it has also made us a more tolerant world.

Ramadan Mubarak

by Cllr Rabina Khan
Liberal Democrats Cllr Rabina Khan Special Advisor House of Lords

Follow me on @rabinakhan / @LDCRE1