I want to send my very best wishes to everyone observing the holy month of Ramadan.
This is an incredibly special time of year for Muslims at home and abroad: a time for charity, for contemplation and community.
Charity is one of the things that Islam is all about. Here in Britain, Muslims are our biggest donors – they give more to charity than any other faith group. We see this spirit of giving all year round, from the mosques running sports clubs for local children to the Muslim groups selling poppies for Remembrance Day, to those people from around the country who put their wellies on, rolled their sleeves up, and went to help the families hit hardest by this winter’s storms.
Ramadan is a time when that spirit comes to the fore and I am so proud when I hear, every year, about the millions of pounds raised for good causes for those less fortunate than us here in Britain, and those who are suffering in wars and in famines overseas.
Ramadan is a time for contemplation to fast, and to pray, and to think deeply about others.
This Ramadan, I hope that we can reflect upon a key aspect of our shared history: the bravery of those who fought and died for our freedoms nearly 100 years ago.
Just days after Eid, we will be marking 100 years since the First World War.
More than a million men and boys from India fought with our troops during that conflict and many thousands of them were Muslims.
They travelled across the world to fight to defend our freedom, guided and sustained by their bravery, comradeship and, above all, by their faith.
Their selflessness and their courage helped to secure the liberties we all enjoy today, so this Ramadan – and this centenary – we will remember them and reflect upon their sacrifice.
Ramadan is a time for community. And there is nothing that exemplifies this more than those nightly iftars when the fast is broken, the dates are opened, and all that great food is served.
Last year I was delighted to see how many community iftars were taking place across the country in mosques and in community centres, in parks and even in tents.
Again this year government is supporting the Big Iftar programme with hundreds more communities, from Leeds to Luton, Woking to Manchester, throwing open their doors so that people of all faiths and none can break bread and get to know their neighbours.
So wherever you are this holy month, I wish you Ramadan Mubarak.