It is currently the holy month of Ramadan, during which time devout Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. This year is the most challenging Ramadan for many years, since it coincides with both the intense summer heat and the longest days of the year, meaning that Muslims who do fast (abstaining not just from food, but also from water) are enduring terrible hardships. Over a thousand people in Karachi, the great port city of southern Pakistan, have died due to a heatwave coinciding with the month of fasting.
Yet this is also a month of great charity. It comes as a surprise to many to learn that Pakistanis donate more money to charity, as a proportion of their income, than any other nationality. These charitable inclinations are given especial prominence during Ramadan, when people are encouraged to think of those less fortunate than themselves.
A few days ago I sat down to order dinner to be delivered to our house in the evening. Alongside the many options for delivery – Chinese, pizza, fish and chips, and of course the whole plethora of delicious Pakistani dishes – was one option to buy food for the poor. The process is simple: you order food, submit your order, and a short while later a motorcycle courier comes round to your house. Instead of delivering food he collects money from you, returns it to the restaurant, and dinner is provided to a needy family.
Much is written, these days, about the dangers of Islam. Many in the West point to recent terrorist attacks in Tunisia, France and Kuwait in order to claim that Islam is inherently violent, despite the fact that only a minute percentage of Muslims actually encourage violence and an even smaller percentage actually carry it out. These critics presumably think that the actions of 0.2% of a population reflect the will of the population as a whole, by which flawed logic all French people could be labelled as anti-Semitic, all Britons as arrogrant aristocrats, and all Koreans as enthusiastic dog-eaters.
Nonsense, of course. Far more indicative of Muslim intentions is the quiet, undemonstrative will of Pakistani Muslims to care for their fellow Muslims, and they will continue with this quiet charity for several more weeks, while the armchair racists of the West continue to rant and rave.