LONDON: British Muslims attending an ethical iftar event in East London on Saturday were encouraged to reduce food waste, their consumption of meat, and use of plastic during Ramadan.

During the holy month, families and friends often gather in the evenings to break the daily fast together, or send gifts of food as they share traditional dishes and delicacies.

The downside of this culture of communal and shared eating include increased use of single-use plastic items to reduce the amount of clean-up, and high amounts of wastage as more food is often cooked than is eaten. In particular, the consumption of meat, a staple of many traditional meals, tends to increase at this time of year.

To help raise awareness of how such excesses contribute to the environmental crisis and are contrary to the Islamic tradition of caring for the Earth, the community-focused arts center Poplar Union hosted an evening of prayer, food and conversation in partnership with several Muslim organizations in London that promote sustainability and environmental issues, including: Green Deen Tribe, which highlights the relationship between Islamic teachings and environmentalism, climate-action platform Two Billion Strong, and environmental activism group Sustainably Muslim.

More than 60 participants enjoyed a nutritious, three-course vegetarian meal of vegetable soup, bread, aromatic rice with a choice of egg or chickpea curry, salads, and traditional desserts from various cultures.

Sofia Ali, a volunteer with Green Deen Tribe who helps manage the organization’s projects, said that meat eaters who attend ethical iftars are often surprised by how satisfying a vegetarian meal can be.

“When people think about healthy food, they don’t necessarily think it’s going to be very filling,” she said. “So a lot of the time, when we speak to the guests at our events, they will be surprised at how full they feel.

“They think that they will come to this iftar and then go and eat meat afterwards to satiate their hunger. But most of them come away feeling very full.”

The aim of the ethical iftars Green Deen Tribe helps organize is to encourage people to think more about sustainability habits they can adopt in their day-to-day lives, Ali added.

“We want to encourage Muslims to know that you don’t have to have an ethical iftar every day, you can just implement different habits and build them over a long period of time,” she said.

“A lot of the work we do is to make sure that people continue the good habits they pick up after Ramadan as well. We want to keep the conversation going and see people going to different events and engaging with ethical and climate-change matters.”

The ethical iftar events therefore encourage Muslims to take small but consistent steps in their daily lives to reduce food waste, the use of single use plastics and meat consumption, Ali added.

Fawzia Anna, a lawyer who attended the iftar, said she liked the fact the event was inclusive, open not only to Muslims but the wider community.

“I just thought it was a nice initiative, something different that I haven’t really seen locally in East London, so I thought, why not attend?” she said. “It’s also an opportunity to meet new people.

“People don’t usually associate iftar with green initiatives and so it’s been a really engaging event. The speakers were very good and I like the fact that people could pray and break their fast together.”

Habib Mairaj, a singer-songwriter who led the sunset prayer at the event and recited a chapter from the Qur’an, said that although he enjoys eating meat, he will try to reduce his consumption.

“I won’t stop eating meat but I definitely feel like we should exercise moderation when it comes to consuming meat products,” he said.

“There are physical and spiritual benefits of eating less meat and this event has made me more aware of that.”


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