This year, the global experience of Ramadan has been shared in a way like never before. As internationally, world leaders have been stepping up and reaching out to Muslims, recognising a common humanity.
Sharing a date to break fast, Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong took part in an online dialogue with Malay-Muslims and community leaders to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr. Similarly, in Canada a virtual Ramadan event took place featuring a message from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
While, in Australia in the truest spirit of multiculturalism, former Australian Socceroo’s star and SBS sports reporter Craig Foster joined Australian Muslims by fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.
Though, it is common practice for community leaders to attend interfaith activities, Foster’s ingenuity to put himself in the shoes of his fellow Australians by fasting over the course of the month constitutes a more significant and innovative multicultural engagement strategy.
Sitting down in front of ABC’s One Plus One with Barrie Cassidy, Craig opened up about his desire to support Australian Muslims, to fight for what is fair and of his various campaigns to help vulnerable communities.
Like other faith-based communities amid the coronavirus crisis, Muslims also have had to adjust themselves to a new way of worship. Yet, as a show of solidarity and respect, the sporting legend chose to share his meals virtually with an eclectic mix of Australia Muslims including Comedian Nazeem Hussain, Co-Founder of Benevolence Saara Sabbagh, Cultural Curator Tasneem Chopra and Labour politician Dr Anne Aly, just to name a few.
“I embraced the Muslim community… I see this as an opportunity to further connect with them…because I think that…(the Muslim community) have been treated unfairly. All of the popular media in Australia has demonised them to an extraordinary degree. I also sit on the board of the Australian Multicultural Council and diversity inclusion is very important to me,” advocated Foster.
Consistently speaking up for the voiceless, Foster has built a name for himself as a leader for human rights.
In 2019, Foster led a successful campaigned to rescue refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi that fled criminal charges related to the 2011 Arab Spring protests against Bahrain’s Government from a Bangkok Prison.
A firm believer that sport has the power to change the world, Foster’s encouraging message is that everyone, including sporting organisations, has a part to play in serving those most vulnerable in our community.
Also an ambassador for Amnesty International, Foster has forged a reputation for supporting refugees, putting the heat on the world highest sporting body FIFA, to recognise their responsibility to defend human rights.
Indeed, at the heart of his community building projects what drives Foster has been his ethos of fairness.
“A team is about the smallest person, it’s never about the biggest one. I might be a Socceroo, but I can’t score on my own,” spirited Foster.
Foster was motivated to lead the initiative to fast following conversations with Hakeem whom he has forged a friendship with.
Ramadan is also a month of charity, and Craig has led by example, using his influence in the sporting realm for the greater good. He stated that giving, especially during a pandemic is important as it might allow us to reflect on how poverty can be eradicated.
“During this pandemic…many of us are questioning the kinds of structures…of our society (that have allowed this to happen),” said Foster.
He stated that he was encouraged to fast in the hopes that everyday Australians might recognise such Islamic practices as a “normal” part of the Australian experience.
“I’d like to use it (fasting) also to think about, (and) reflect… about the 7 hundred million people who… live below the poverty line around the world…who are especially vulnerable during the Pandemic,” said Foster.
Our nation’s leaders have also offered their encouragement. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison sent a reassuring video message just in time for Eid celebrations, marking the end of Ramadan.
“I offer everyone in Australia’s Muslim community my deep gratitude for everything you contribute to Australia each and every day, what you’ve brought to Australia,” said Mr Morrison.