“It’s not just for Muslim parliamentarians to fight prejudice,” said Labour MP Wes Streeting during the Big Iftar.

The Big Iftar, a grassroots-led initiative for people of all backgrounds to break bread together at the end of the day, takes place across the UK during the month of Ramadan, ever since it was launched in 2012.

Yesterday, for the first time in history, John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, hosted it in the Speaker’s House. The event was organised by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims.

Representatives from a range of organisations took part, including HOPE not hate, Nisa-Nashim, the Muslim Council of Britain and Islamic Relief UK.

Imran Madden, director of Islamic Relief UK, spoke at the event about Ramadan being not just a time for fasting, but for giving.

British Muslims are estimated to have given approximately £100 million to charity during Ramadan 2016 (or £38 a second), according to figures received by the Charity Commission.

The APPG on British Muslims report, ‘Faith as the Fourth Emergency Service’, was discussed by several MPs. The report acknowledges the range of work done by Muslim charities in the UK.

A diverse mix of Muslims, from doctors to journalists to chefs to MPs, attended the Iftar. Underneath the chandeliers and giant portraits of historical figures, a young British Muslim sang an Arabic version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, before giving the call to prayer signalling the breaking of the fast.

Tackling anti-Muslim hatred

Throughout the evening, MPs affirmed their stance against anti-Muslim hatred. Bercow assured the audience they would be welcome back every year as long as he was Speaker of the House and stated the country was made “unequivocally a better society because of the British Muslim community.”

“Islamophobia is a fact,” he said, addressing the upsurge in hate against Muslims in Britain.  

“It comes in all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life. It’s not just regrettably ignorant and uneducated people – although sure there are some – who fall into the scapegoating and demonising of the other but also people who really should know better,” he added.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, who asked Bercow to host the Big Iftar, spoke about her respect for those who “are ready to stand apart from the crowd”. “Minorities are tolerated if they’re conformists but they should be respected for themselves,” said Warsi.

“It’s dangerous when a member of a minority dares to be different and all of a sudden a bucketful of cow dung descends upon them,” another politician added.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid assured the audience he would do everything he could to stop hate crime directed at Muslims. He added that only he had the right to define himself, not the far-right or Islamist extremists.

The Iftar took place amid growing concerns of Islamophobia in the Conservative party. Last week, the Muslim Council of Britain urged the party to launch an independent inquiry into Islamophobia.

This morning, the chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum has also spoken out and accused his party of a failure to take action on Islamophobia.

Mohammed Amin said the party was perceived as being "anti-Muslim" and had prioritised electoral concerns rather than taking "decisive action".

The Big Iftar at Westminster is unlikely to solve these concerns, but remains an important milestone and provided a very public setting to have these important discussions.