What happens when a group of people from different walks of life gather together to share a meal? Barriers of caste and religion are broken. Judgement is set aside. And stories that make each of these individuals unique bring them together.
In a wonderful example, this holy season of Ramazan, the dusk meal of Iftar garnered a new meaning in the cities of Lucknow and New Delhi.
While the Mankameshwar Temple in Lucknow hosted an Iftar meal for their fasting Muslim brethren at its premises, Queer Muslim Project, a popular LGBTQIA social media page advocating the rights of queer Muslims, hosted a unique queer iftar in New Delhi.
The 1000-year-old Mankameshwar Temple hosted iftar for over 500 Muslims. Situated on the banks of Gomti River near Daliganj Bridge, the temple became the first ever in Lucknow to host an iftar. Apart from dining on the sumptuous meal, the Muslim brothers also offered namaz at the ‘aarti sthal’ of the temple. Noted clerics from both Shia and Sunni sects attended the event at the same time.
“Three of our cooks along with workers of the temple started preparations for the Iftar since morning for more than 500 people who were expected to come to this first of its kind Iftar. The gathering was historic and it was a step to reinstate the city’s harmonious traditions,” Mahant Divy Giri from the Mankameshwar Temple told News 18.
Speaking to the Indian Express he added, “We should celebrate every festival with great zeal. By helping the ones on fast, people will earn ‘punya’. Everybody should also take part in it irrespective of their caste.”
Moved by the humble gesture of the temple, Imam Abdul Mannan said that the move would strengthen the bond between the two religious communities in the city.
On the other hand, The Times of India reported that a group of youngsters joined hands and shared an inter-faith queer Iftar, organised by the Queer Muslim Project on Saturday. June 9, 2018.
Along with roohafza, samosas and biryani, some of the youngsters shared their dual struggles with being stereotyped as being Muslim and gay.
The queer iftar was also incidentally hosted in June, which is celebrated as Pride Month across the world.
The idea was to share a meal while creating an open platform to address homophobia within the Muslim community and create awareness to fight it, explained Rafiul Alom Rahman, one of the organisers of the event, and an activist working with the LGBTQIA community.
Another organiser, Iqra, said the idea was to show that Muslims can be gay too and that it doesn’t go against their faith.
But the struggles were many. The organisers fought much resistance to get a space to host the meal. Even after the team reserved 20 RSVPs, many organisations, including progressive organisations refused to give them space.
But all’s well that ends well. The Biryani lovers managed to find a space, followed tradition to set up a Dastarkhwan (the table/tablecloth used to keep the iftar food), laid out food in front of them. And as food became their common ground, they broke their fasts and their biases.
May Iftar continue to gather new meanings year on year, as people from different communities and identities come together and open dialogue for a more united India.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)