Enriching Islamic values through Ramadan Nights Lakemba festival

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The Ramadan Nights Lakemba festival, scheduled to commence from Saturday 9 March 2024, is a vibrant celebration that not only showcases the rich cultural heritage of Islam but also an opportunity for interfaith dialogue and community engagement.

Ramadan Nights Lakemba is held during the full month of Ramadan starting on Saturday 9 March till Monday 8 April 2024 on Haldon Street, the Boulevard and Railway Parade, Lakemba in Sydney with road closures and detour routes  in place every night 5pm-3am.

Amidst the ongoing Israeli military operations in Gaza, resulting in the loss of thousands of lives, particularly among women and children, global support for the Muslims in Gaza is intensifying. In this context, the significance of this festival becomes crucial as it could serve as a platform to showcase Islamic culture and values.

Despite its tremendous economic impact, drawing both Muslims and non-Muslims alike, the festival faces various challenges. Chief among these challenges is the inadequate parking infrastructure, which not only inconveniences visitors but also leads to unethical revenue generation through fines. The other crucial factor is the absence of true teachings and traditions of Islam.

The festival, which generated approximately $33 million in economic activity last year, attracts over 10,000 visitors each night, underscoring its significance in the community.

However, the lack of sufficient parking facilities diminishes the visitors’ festive mood, forcing some to resort to illegal parking or a long walk from parking to the festival place. Regrettably, instead of addressing this issue, the Sydney Council prioritises profit by excessively penalising illegal parkers.

The month-long festival attracts a large number of visitors and generates substantial revenue, highlighting the need for the local council to take responsibility for its security and amenities.

To guarantee a smooth-running event that is welcoming and accessible to all attendees, the council must prioritise the provision of essential facilities such as sufficient toilet facilities, seating areas, and clear signage.

The fundamental message of Ramadan, which serves as the cornerstone of the festival, appears to be absent. The local Muslim community missed the chance to engage with visitors and communicate Islam’s teachings, particularly concerning the importance of the holy month of Ramadan.

Regrettably, the festival fails to adequately represent Islamic principles. While non-Muslim visitors may enjoy the Muslim traditional culinary, there’s a risk they’ll misunderstand the true significance of Ramadan, as food is not Ramadan’s main focus.

More so, while there shouldn’t be any limitation to conducting business during Ramadan, but profiteering by raising prices excessively contradicts Islamic principles. Instead, prices should ideally be reduced during this sacred month, aligning with Islamic teachings.

The festival presents a golden opportunity for the Muslim community in Lakemba to showcase Islamic culture and values, fostering unity and understanding among diverse groups. It’s an opportunity to organise the event in a friendly and attractive manner.

Despite the presence of numerous mosques in Lakemba, there hasn’t been much innovation in engaging with visitors, especially those from other religions.

The mosque committees could establish makeshift camps where visitors are warmly welcomed into Muslim culture, offered sweets and tea, and engaged in discussions about the benefits of Ramadan and fasting.

Additionally, various teachings and practices of Prophet Mohammad (s) could be discussed in a congenial atmosphere. This approach would allow the festival to authentically reflect the essence of Islam.

Regrettably, internal divisions within the Muslim community and a decline in traditional Islamic practices threaten to obscure the true essence of the festival. Muslims must overcome these barriers and embrace the spirit of compassion and inclusivity that Ramadan embodies.

Without proactive measures to engage visitors and address logistical challenges, the festival risks misrepresenting Muslim culture and rituals.

Therefore, concerted efforts from community leaders, local authorities, and festival organisers are needed to enhance the overall experience and ensure the festival’s success.

By prioritising visitor satisfaction and fostering interfaith dialogue, the Lakemba Ramadan Night Festival can truly become a beacon of cultural exchange and understanding for all.

 

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