Russell Brand is an ambidextrous sex spider whose tentacles rile feckless politicians and tax dodging press barons alike; a Colchester Wordsworth who snares devotees in a verbose web of infinite possibilities of how life should be. He is a 21st Century composite of bits from the Age of Aquarius, a Che-Lava lamp in the heart of darkness that is politics. Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar: a month where Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, sex and subtweeting people on Twitter from sunrise to sunset. Superficially, then, there is no link between Ramadan and the Essex Messiah.
But look beyond the superficial. Ramadan and Brand are the same in that they manage to generate an inordinate amount of negative press. Big bold headlines, lurid pictures and infographics of a dubious nature linking Ramadan in a ménage trois with white genocide and the overthrow of Christmas. Exploited by the Klu-less Kommentariat Klan to generate clicks and eagerly lapped up by the comment section of every newspaper. Ramadan and Russell Brand are similar in the coverage they generate; both are disliked by the establishment and both make women swoon, although for different reasons.
So why has Ramadan become shorthand for ISIS?
Well Ramadan has become an advent calendar of xenophobia and racism for a sizeable section of society with a hate hot-take every other day to fuel the increasing animosity towards all things Muslim.
White flight has turned to white fright. Islam was all right when it kept to Tower Hamlets and parts of Birmingham you wouldn’t visit let alone touch with a Morris dancer’s maypole. But now that the sex-abstaining, food-shunning Ramadan adherents are popping up everywhere in the UK it has become a threat to “our way of life” according to our brightest and best commentators.
Which is ironic because the very same radio presenters and hacks have spent the previous eleven months chiding anyone who uses food banks as lazy, gluttonous and work-shy.
Ramadan in its current guise is an unsalvageable PR disaster, like MySpace in the Facebook era or looking for a date without Tinder; it’s medieval, backward and not equipped to deal with 2016. If Ramadan was your Nan you’d take her to Dignitas because it’s the humane thing to do. Yes some may point to Becky going viral because she fasted for a half day in solidarity with Bushra who is in the same class as her at university; but for every Becky there’s a thousand Nigels and Mels who are livid at the coordinated non-eating of Muslims all around the world.
The Ramadan economic case is clear: just imagine three million people opting out from the national obesity crisis in the UK for a month, or the boost to supermarkets when anything remotely foreign gets rebranded as a Ramadan offer – but all this falls on deaf ears because most of all Ramadan keeps the lights on at your favourite hate publication and such is why Ramadan has a image problem like David Beckham after the 1998 World Cup.
You can also make the case to patriots in Kent that Muslims fasting 19 hours during the summer months is no bad thing and may even thin out the herd so to speak. But hating Ramadan and Muslims was never a rational endeavour and Islamophobes have all the consistency of Nigel Farage’s wobbly chin.
As Muslims we have to acknowledge the PR battle for Ramadan has been lost in a deluge of poorly sourced memes and hypocritical reporting. What I propose is not just a rebranding for Ramadan but for it to go into full stealth mode, just like Russell Brand has for most of 2016.
My rebrand of Ramadan works because it’s placated on not arousing the ire of the type of people who think sage and onion is the zenith of chicken seasoning. Ramadan needs to go under the radar of the press and politicians, like far right white nationalism has in the UK.
So with this in mind here are a few solutions on how to make Ramadan and Muslims irrelevant again like those halcyon days before 9/11.
Ram-A Dan sounds like an adjective to do harm to anyone who looks like a Dan, i.e. non-believers. So Muslims, what I propose is to rename Ramadan. Call it the thirty day challenge; Starve Your Way To A Better You, or my personal favourite, the Sunrise to Sunset cleanse.
If your neighbours are getting anxious with all the late night cooking during Ramadan ease their fears by saying it’s a pop-up bistro — a poppadam pop-up, the kind that are beloved of Guardianistas.
If your stomach starts to rumble more than a Tyson Fury rant on YouTube, mask the offensive dirge with a patriotic rendition of the national anthem or an Adele cover, because by 5pm on a fasting day all Muslims start to feel a bit weepy about missing that extra samosa they turned down the night before.
The Ramadan aisle in the supermarket, those Two for Ones, may look attractive but they’re subsidised by adding an extra penny on tinned beer for EDL marchers. Don’t rush the Ramadan aisle for Halal Haribo; stagger your timings, consult in our secret Islamist Whatsapp group chat – we don’t want to spook non-Muslims into thinking we are stockpiling for an Islamist Armageddon.
Due to Ramadan interrupting British Summer Time there’ll be huge numbers of Muslims out and about throughout the night, so as to not spook Fox News or intelligence services I propose Muslims disguise themselves as carol singers. Think about it: carol singers always move in groups in the evenings and everyone tries not to make eye contact with them because they’ll soon be tapping you up for a fiver for a donkey sanctuary in Blackpool. Or if carol singers don’t appeal, get all Muslims to wear England Euro 2016 tops. All manner of bad behaviour is excused when you wear an England top. Don’t believe me? Get Abdul and Mo to put one on and chant “It’s coming home, it’s coming home, Shariahs coming home” on the way back from Ramadan prayers. Nothing will happen because they’re just a bunch of England supporters.
Finally throw them off the scent by using a code word for Eid. IED is a popular one among my woke Muslim friends.
Or you can flip the whole thing on its head and promote Ramadan as that cool kid behind the bike shed with the fag in hand (except without the fag, because of fasting). Just make it so achingly cool that early adopters flock to it. Have pictures of Ramadan looking edgy yet simultaneously vulnerable: get the millennial demographic Ramadan-curious and watch the hate drift away, like your waistline during a thirty-day fast in the summer months.
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Raf is a vegetarian Muslim who does current affairs with jokes. Follow him on Twitter @1Rafz
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