One of the distinguishing features of Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr 2016 is the importance accorded by department stores like Marks and Spencer and supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s to the tastes and preferences of Muslims and their rituals. Although Muslims make up only 5% of the population in the UK, their purchasing power, or rather, their annual expenditure is about £20 billion. Economists estimate that Muslims will have spent more than £484 billion by 2019.
Corporate companies selling consumer goods took advantage of this and came together to put on an Islamic festival at the famous Olympia London. Muslims and non-Muslims alike could buy and eat various food that was prepared in front of them at their request and according to their instructions. They could eat and drink palatable and tasty food and drink after opening their fasts. There was food that could be consumed immediately, taken home or delivered. Money is everything. Why not?
In other parts of the building, Islamic fashion designed by Christians, Jews, Hindus and Muslims from all sects and nationalities was displayed. Where there is a lucrative market, feuds and objections disappear. It appears that companies aspired to spread the Islamic tradition, even among non-Muslims. Girls were shown how the headscarf and abayas (robe-like dresses) of various exotic designs were worn. There is no doubt that some types of headscarves require lessons in how to be worn in order for their stunning designs to be shown.
Some designers showed great skill in designing underwear for Muslim women. Swimsuits that cover the entire body but do not impede swimming, and wedding dresses in different colours were showcased. Outstanding dresses compatible with Islamic heritage and even inspired by Islamic history were seen on the catwalk.
Catering companies and food suppliers sought to promote some traditional English, Scottish, Welsh and Cornish dishes and adapt them to Islamic tastes and dietary requirements. Halal cottage pies, sausages, Cornish pasties and beef pies were available. In fact, many of these halal dishes can be found in supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s, Marks and Spencer, Waitrose and even Co-op. You will find the word “Halal” printed on the shelves and even “Ramadan Mubarak” written in Diwani style calligraphy during the holy month.
The issue of halal and haram has presented some problems in Britain. The law necessitates the slaughter of an animal only after it has been stunned. Some scholars feel that this is incompatible with halal slaughter. Food companies have started to try and reach a compromise on this matter. Of course, this will open the door to cheating and manipulation. For this reason, a committee was established to supervise and inspect halal food. I cannot but express my absolute admiration for the efforts of the English to respect the traditions and heritage of peoples. Britain is a country of tolerance and freedom and is perhaps the only country where women are free to cover and uncover their heads and faces as they please.