Many of the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims fast during the month of Ramadan, abstaining from all food and drink from dawn to dusk—which, in some parts of the world, can be for up to nineteen hours. The peak of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK coincided with the start of Ramadan, which took place in April–May 2020. This was also during a period of a government-imposed lockdown in which social and communal activities were severely restricted. In the UK, home to approximately 3 million Muslims, many of whom fast during Ramadan, the Muslim community disproportionately suffered from the impacts of COVID-19 over multiple waves of the pandemic. While some commentators have sought to explain this disproportionate impact with reference to “Muslim cultural practices” particularly during Ramadan, others have pointed to structural factors which have result in increased risk, for example, members of the Muslim community being over-represented in higher risk and public-facing jobs, being more likely to experience poorer living conditions, and existing inequalities in access to, uptake of, and experience within healthcare services, all of which increase exposure and affect coping with infection from the SARS CoV-2 virus. In this chapter, we examine the contextual factors leading to health disparities among Muslims in the UK, and how they have played out during the COVID-19 pandemic. We then specifically consider whether ritual fasting during Ramadan contributed to inequalities. We finally assert that structural factors largely explain the disproportionate impacts on Muslims observed in the early stages of the pandemic.
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Mitha, K., Waqar, S., Asaria, M., Suleiman, M. & Ghouri, N. 2023, 'An examination of Ramadan fasting and COVID-19 outcomes in the UK', Islam, Muslims, and COVID-19, pp. 199-232. https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004679771_010