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Last week, I emailed the members of a small community that I coordinate in Montreal. The group aims to be a gender-equal, queer affirming, and overall open and welcoming Muslim space, and I have a deep love for the people within it. We’re an eclectic mix of backgrounds, levels of religiosity, and various other identities. The message I sent them was mostly logistical, focused on planning our Ramadan iftars. But I added this message at the end:
I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to create open and welcoming spaces (as we try to do with [our community]), and one element that doesn’t always get enough attention is the possible presence of body-shaming and food-policing – which can be especially prevalent in groups that are mainly women, in a misogynistic culture that teaches us to bond through disparaging our bodies and judging our eating habits. This sometimes gets further amplified in any gathering that revolves around food, even more so after a day of fasting. I want to ask everyone to be sensitive to those issues, which means refraining from discussions of weight, “good” or “bad” foods, or anything else that assigns a moral value to particular foods or bodies. If there’s something you don’t want to eat, or something you want to eat a lot of, that’s all up to you! Coming together to share in food we have brought for each other can be a powerful act of collective support and nurturing. Let’s work on making it a safe and nourishing space to do so.
The idea of creating safe(r) spaces to eat and affirming spaces for diverse bodies – especially including diversity of body shapes and sizes – takes a particularly challenging shape during a time like Ramadan when so many people are not eating at all during the day. It’s something I hope to explore in more detail as the month goes on. For now, I wanted to send out the same wish to MMW readers as I conveyed to my small community here: may we be mindful of our comments and their effects. May we go easy on ourselves and each other during a month that can be difficult. May your iftars be moments of physical and emotional nourishment and support.