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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

The world can be a frightening place, but don't lose sight of your hope this Eid

More than a celebration, Eid is a time to restart and improve, by helping those in need around us, writes Shelina Janmohamed

Eid fireworks at Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy Yas Marina 
Eid fireworks at Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy Yas Marina 

He may have instituted a widely reviled "Muslim ban" and encouraged the rise of white supremacists, but Donald Trump might just have given us an early Eid gift this year.

This week, the US President and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had a historic handshake and signed an agreement to move forward with peace. While it’s not entirely clear that the agreement offers us anything new, the significance of the photographs, the togetherness and the seeming agreement might herald a new future.

And after all, isn’t that what Eid is all about: the renewal of hope, forgiving the sins of the past and starting afresh? Eid Mubarak Donald and Kim.

For many of us, the last 12 months have felt tumultuous and often frightening. This week we mark the anniversary of the tragic Grenfell Tower fire. Whether in Syria, Yemen, Palestine, Guatemala or Bangladesh, the heartbreaking horrors of war are seemingly neverending.

So even though this is a small gesture, it happens to be perfectly timed to give us all a bit of an Eid present. It might be just the gift of hope we’ve all been seeking.

Even the Taliban have got that festive Eid feeling. For the first time ever, they’ve agreed to a ceasefire, which will extend for three days of Eid. Perhaps, like me, they are keen to resume their morning coffee routine. It should not exculpate them of the bloodshed they have caused. But on Eid we need to think nice thoughts about people. Should we have hope?

The Taliban don’t seem to be fully embracing the Eid spirit though because while they might be laying down arms, that won’t be the case when they are facing US troops in Afghanistan.

But Eid is for everyone. It is about taking a moment of pause in a chaotic world to think about the basic human delights and joy the period generates. It is about bringing the family together and celebrating all the goodness of the human condition. It is about the unadulterated delight of children that reminds us of the purity of love and youth. It’s about the rush of a sip of caffeine, about remembering the taste of food. It is about spiritual renewal, the intention to improve and do good. It is about hope, about how resetting our individual lives can contribute to a better world.

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Read more from Shelina Janmohamed:

Women are disproportionately affected by mental health issues. It's time to talk about it.

Grenfell Tower is a monument to the tragic inequalities of modern Britain

Denying the discrimination of British Muslims is its own twisted form of Islamophobia

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But even in the joy and celebration, the world can still be a dark place capable of worrying or scaring us. We must not forget that Eid is not about superficial delights such as high-calorie cakes, sequined gowns and fattening biryanis. And while baklava might be melting on our lips and the morning cup of coffee might be coursing through our veins, the reminders of those who do not have access to food, shelter, healthcare, warmth or security should be at the front of our minds. Eid is the beginning of the beginning.

While we can hope that handshakes between world leaders and photo opportunities will bring us peace, the thing to remember about Eid is that it is far more than a show. Rather, it’s about deep change, remorse and restarting. It’s not about patting ourselves on the back, but moving forward in a different way.

I’m hopeful. We should always be hopeful. But Eid is a time when our joy and celebration can be incongruous with a world in which many people don’t have that safety and security. We should look past the headlines and glossy images.

Closer to home, we may assume that everyone is having the Eid that we are enjoying. But loneliness, poverty and mental health issues might lie behind the smiles that surround us, hiding sorrows and pain that we can’t imagine. They might mask what was lost in the past, or the suffering that is ongoing.

And when we smile on Eid, we don’t know what the future holds. But we know what we can bring to it – hope, and hard work for the coming year, to rise above where we currently are. So hold your loved ones close and your hope even closer. And share love wherever you go. Eid Mubarak.

Shelina Janmohamed is the author of Love in a Headscarf and Generation M: Young Muslims Changing the World