With a son soon to take his ‘A’ Levels, I know how important these exams are, as something he and his fellow students need to work toward and so much depending on the outcome and not least is when these finish so they can move onto the next stage of their lives. Always we wish all going through the ordeal the very best and they get the result they deserve. One of the news items we have been recently been exposed to comes under the title: “Exams timetabled to accommodate Ramadan”. Ramadam this year is from the 6th June to 5th July and is the time when many Muslims fast during the day, with the ‘A’ Level and GCSE timetable taking this into account.
Understandably, there have been reactions to this especially by those indignant that here is yet a further example of those following notions of political correctness and multi-culturalism at their worse again pandering to the wishes of the Muslims. Yet I understand the timetable had been set out for a while and the fixing of the dates was in keeping with a general policy to accommodate religious festivals wherever possible and in fact the changes that were made in this case were not major and mainly focused on allocating morning slots for exams as being the time when those students who were fasting would be most alert (also probably true if they weren’t).
While I don’t know all the details or implications, I am of a view that in this case common sense has been the winner, and that is a good thing. While I have gone on record by saying that I don’t support things like wearing of the burqa and the imposition of sharia law and believe people should be rewarded for being good citizens and expect to learn the English language and respect the customs of the land they live in, I think reasonable accommodation should be made for people to practice their culture and religion. I also see no reason why those things that have long been deemed to be traditionally British like celebrating Christmas, church bells ringing and eating bacon should have to change because of people coming into the country that have different perspectives and practices. A concern that should not dismissed is the marginalisation of Christianity in national and school life and yet the increasing accommodation of Islam, sometimes leading to resentment by some toward Islam. For example, in schools, Easter holidays are often being replaced by Spring breaks that miss out the Easter period altogether.
My past record of playing a significant role in putting on diversity event and supporting those from other cultures and religions and promoting tolerance, understanding and hospitality speaks for itself, and I have no intention to stop doing something I believe to be essentially right. After the fasting of Ramadam, there is the feasting and this is recognized in Islam by the festival of Eid, just as in a similar fashion Advent precedes Christmas and Lent precedes Easter in the Christian church calendar. I for one will want to stand with my Muslim friends as they celebrate Ramadam and would want to make it easier for them if at all possible and then to wish them Eid Mubarak (blessed Eid) when it is all over.