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.”


Avengers assemble for final battle in ‘Endgame’

Updated 24 April 2019
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Avengers assemble for final battle in ‘Endgame’

  • “Avengers: Endgame” is the final installment of a wildly ambitious 22-film arc featuring the beloved superheroes of the Marvel universe
  • Pundits are predicting a debut weekend that could break records with the first billion-dollar opening in history

LOS ANGELES: After nearly two dozen films and billions of dollars in ticket sales around the globe, the Avengers are gearing up for a final time — and their last adventure could shatter all box office records.
“Avengers: Endgame” is the final installment of a wildly ambitious 22-film arc featuring the beloved superheroes of the Marvel universe, many of them the creations of late comic book legend Stan Lee.
It hits theaters this week — parts of Asia and Europe get the first view of the three-hour epic on Wednesday, and it gets its wide release in the US and Canada on Friday. Pundits are predicting a debut weekend that could break records with the first billion-dollar opening in history.
That would easily beat out the previous record holder, “Avengers: Infinity War,” the first part of the “Infinity Saga” — as it was dubbed by Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige, who has produced every single movie in the franchise — which opened in 2018 with $640.5 million.
After Monday’s star-studded world premiere in Hollywood, the six original Avengers celebrated the end of the road Tuesday at the iconic TCL Chinese Theatre.
Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) assembled for a final time with Feige at the TCL Chinese Theatre, where they signed blocks of cement and marked them with handprints.
“It’s been an amazing ride,” Ruffalo — who attempted a handstand while waiting for the cement to set — said of the 10-year project.
The 21 preceding films have earned about $19 billion globally, and though “Endgame” marks the end of the current narrative arc, Marvel Studios is far from through.

Even as they mark the end of what Johansson called a “wonderful” experience, Marvel Studios has already announced several new projects: in addition to sequels for “Spider-Man,” “Black Panther” and “Doctor Strange,” there will also be “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” “The Eternals” and “Black Widow,” the second Marvel universe film to give a female character solo top billing.
“The fun thing about an ending is that you eventually get to do a new beginning,” Feige told AFP.
“So yes, there will be a new beginning, but right now, it’s about this combination of 22 movies. That’s what we’re most excited for.”
In preparation for the marvelous cinematic conclusion, “Endgame” directors Joe and Anthony Russo took to Twitter to post a letter to “the greatest fans in the world.”
“This is it,” they wrote. “This is the end. The end of an unprecedented narrative mosaic spanning eleven years and eleven franchises.”
They acknowledged the massive impact that the Avengers series has had on its fans, saying it was for “all of you who have been on this journey with us since the very beginning.”
Fans have been on the edge of their seats for the conclusion, and the cast has been notoriously tight-lipped during the press tour for fear of potential spoilers.
But someone couldn’t wait: on Sunday, five minutes of “Endgame” footage containing crucial plot points from the finale were anonymously posted online, prompting the Russo brothers’ letter.
The brothers concluded their message with an appeal: not to spoil the end of the movie.
“Remember,” the Russo brothers said, “Thanos still demands your silence. #DontSpoilTheEndgame.”