Mehar Ahmad based in Sydney is a Public School Teacher and President of Seena Inc, Publishers of the Australasian Muslim Times AMUST.
With COVID-19 family lockdowns Ramadan 2020 will be different to any previous Ramadan, no congregational prayers at the mosque, no community Iftars, no night markets and no Eid festivals.
Under these circumstances, an innovative project Recipes for Ramadan, an initiative of Jane Jeffes, a former head of ABC Religion and Ethics, will provide invitation to virtual home Iftars, sharing in different families’ food, culture, stories and beliefs across the month of Ramadan and beyond in order to build a sense of community around Ramadan 2020.
As family lockdowns, online learning, video calls and video conferencing and #stayathome go on, Muslim leaders and schools have identified growing concerns for the social and emotional connectedness of communities and ‘a need to break the current gloomy atmosphere’ specially during the special fasting month of Ramadan.
Jane Jeffes from Firefly Productions, being a passionate proponent of greater diversity in the media and having 30 years experience in film, tv, radio, online and print as producer and director in UK as well as Australia, has put together the project Recipes for Ramadan in partnership with Amity College, Unity Grammar and AMUST in order to celebrate Ramadan 2020 inspite of constraints due to COVID-19 lockdown.
Public awareness of Ramadan has grown over recent years and public interest in food and its origins likewise. In 2020, with more than 50% of Australians born overseas or having one or more parents born overseas and 30% of us first generation Australians born overseas, the culture, the stories, the traditions and the food traditions we bring with us are central to Australia’s rich cultural tapestry and something to celebrate and share. This project does that.
The participation of Australian-Muslim public figures from the Grand Mufti Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed to community leaders, politicians, business leaders, entertainers and sports people will add a role model dimension for a younger generation and celebrate the contribution of Australian-Muslims to Australian life.
Recipes for Ramadan and social media (Instagram, Facebook and a YouTube channel) will gather together recipes, stories, photos and videos to make them accessible to a far wider audience and to connect with other food networks locally and around the world from Buzzfeed Tasty and chefs like Ottolenghi to some of Australia’s own acknowledged cooks and chefs.
The teaching staff at the schools see the project as a valuable way to promote connectedness at this challenging time, to enrich family and community life and celebrate the rich legacies of the school communities and wider Australian-Muslim community. With families together at home or communicating with older generations and extended family via video call platforms, the project is a feel-good distraction to unlock and share valuable parts of family stories they may never have explored before.
Ramadan started on Friday 24 April, the last day of NSW school holidays and will end on Saturday 23 May, four weeks into NSW Term 2.
Longer-term aims of the project include a recipe book with stories and photos and possibly a documentary with footage and material which this Ramadan 2020 participants will have created, benefitting Muslim as well as the wider community in Australia and beyond.