London’s Open Iftar is a melting pot of diplomacy and faith

Omar Salha, Ramadan Tent Project
Updated 11 June 2018
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London’s Open Iftar is a melting pot of diplomacy and faith

  • We envisage having an Open Iftar in every major city in the UK and then the world
  • Open Iftar, which is held in a public garden in central London, now attracts 200 to 300 people from all walks of life every night during Ramadan

LONDON: When you see the word “diplomat” what springs to mind? A smartly suited state representative — or you, whoever you might be? Omar Salha, the founder and director of Ramadan Tent Project (RTP), which has evolved into the ever-growing Open Iftar movement, believes that everyone has the potential to be a diplomat for the causes they believe in.
“I think you can broaden out the concept of ‘diplomat’ beyond the idea of a person representing a state,” he said at an Open Iftar evening in London. “I think we are at a stage in our lives… where every single citizen has the capacity to become a diplomat, in the sense of representing an organization.”
This type of community activity plays an important part in combating negative stereotypes of Muslims, he added.
“This initiative, and many others that are unsung, helps people to believe in positive stories,” he said.
Salha launched RTP in 2011 while he was studying for an MA at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). He saw that many fellow international Muslim students, living away from home and family, were particularly isolated during Ramadan.
He decided to do something about this and came up with the idea of creating a communal space where students could come together to break bread.
The response was immediate and strong, with non-Muslims also attending what became known as Open Iftar in support of their fellow students.
Open Iftar, which is held in a public garden in central London, now attracts 200 to 300 people from all walks of life every night during Ramadan.
Salha is now studying for a Ph.D. at SOAS and he has big ambitions for Open Iftar.
“We envisage having an Open Iftar in every major city in the UK and then the world,” he said. “Open Iftar is an example of how public diplomacy and faith are amalgamated together. We are out here creating a space for people to interact with one another in terms of soft power.”


Need to vent some anger? Jordan opens ‘Axe Rage Rooms’

Updated 18 April 2019
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Need to vent some anger? Jordan opens ‘Axe Rage Rooms’

  • People can demolish old items as well as smash plates and glasses — but for the price of $17
  • So-called rage rooms have been opening up around the world

AMMAN: In an underground room in Amman, a small group of Jordanians swing giant hammers at an old television, computer and printer, wrecking the machines, and then hit a car windscreen, shattering the glass into tiny pieces.
In the “Axe Rage Rooms,” people can vent their anger and frustration by demolishing old items as well as smashing plates and glasses.
“This is simply a place to break things and vent,” co-founder and general manager Ala’din Atari said. “A place where people come when they’re looking for a new experience... walking into a room with various items which they can break.”
So-called rage rooms have opened around the world, drawing visitors who want let their hair down and unleash some anger.
At the “Axe Rage Rooms,” where the experience costs $17, participants wearing protective suits and helmets wrote the issues bothering them on a blackboard — “ex-girlfriends,” “boss” and “all boyfriends,” the words becoming the targets of their anger.
Atari said his venue, which has seen about 10 clients a day in the month since it opened, had a space for couples, where the pair enter two rooms separated by a reinforced glass window.
“I wanted to try something new and...it was great,” said Ayla Alqadi, 23, after chucking old kitchenware at the window — behind which stood a friend.
“I felt like I had extra energy, it was a way to channel all the negativity inside, everything you feel inside you can release here.”