Madam Speaker, as we approach the final week of the sacred month of Ramadan in the Islamic calendar, I rise today to pay tribute to Canberra’s various Muslim communities. For adherents of the Islamic faith, this is the most sacred time of the year, characterised by a number of important religious practices. Of these, the most well-known is probably the observation of a daily fast.
The fasting period begins each day at dawn and ends at sunset. This means that Muslims must arise extra early each day to prepare and consume a pre-fast meal called the suhur. Then, throughout the daylight hours, they abstain from all food and drink until it is time to break fast with the meal known as iftar. This daily fasting continues without interruption throughout the entire lunar month, lasting 29 to 30 days.
Madam Speaker, I honour the commitment and sacrifice demonstrated by our Muslim friends and neighbours as they observe this fasting period. At the same time, I acknowledge that religious fasting goes far beyond merely not eating or drinking. The desire to satisfy one’s appetite for food or drink is a natural human urge.
Fasting, however, helps to develop and strengthen self-restraint and self-discipline, traits that are at the core of self-improvement in nearly every area of life. People who learn to deny their cravings for the things that give life are more capable of denying things that actually harm themselves and others – things like anger, impatience and selfishness.
Fasting also helps to teach both compassion and charity. Experiencing a small dose of privation each day for an entire month reminds participants that many people in the world go without food, month after month. Self-restraint, however, puts us in a better position to share what we have with those whose lives are characterised by deprivation and hardship.
I have experienced firsthand the kindness and generosity of many Muslim friends and neighbours from a variety of communities and across all aspects of my life. During Ramadan, invitations to participate in iftar meals are abundant, and I personally cherish these opportunities to mingle with people who desire to share not just their food but also their faith and compassion.
Madam Speaker, if we consider the deeply personal and formative role of religious beliefs and practices in the lives of people of faith, we will come to understand just how generous it is when people seek to share their faith with us.
I am grateful that at this time of year, we are welcomed into the hearts and lives of so many followers of the Islamic faith. I am grateful for all that our Muslim communities bring to this city of ours. I am inspired by their examples of commitment and sacrifice in the pursuit of becoming better people. I am thankful for all that they do to build strong homes and communities as they seek to serve others.
I hope, Madam Speaker, that our Muslim friends and neighbours will find these final days of Ramadan a time of peace and joy.