Lent: Muslims stand in solidarity with Christians by tweeting what they will give up until Easter

Followers of the campaign have been using #Muslims4Lent

In a show of solidarity, Muslims are standing with Christians and giving up guilty pleasures for lent.

For Christians, lent is a period of self-restraint, marked by fasting, repentance, prayer and self-control. Luxury or rich foods, such as meat and dairy are often avoided by those taking part.

Abstention from personal “bad habits” such as watching television or eating too much sugar is also commonly practised.

The observance starts on Ash Wednesday and lasts until Easter, as Christians imitate the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in a desert before being blessed by John the Baptist.

Using #Muslims4Lent, followers of Islam are tweeting photos of themselves in which they declare what they will be giving up.

Muslim American entrepreneur Bassel Riche, 28, told The Independent  that he was inspired to start the started the campaign after non-Muslim students joined in with the Muslim Students Association’s Ramadan Fast-a-Thon at his former college, The University of Houston.

“We would all gather in a big hall and break our fast together at a hosted dinner and partake in interfaith dialogue,” he said, explaining that he had observed lent around for four years, and wanted to encourage fellow Muslims to join him this year.

“The goal is to thank the many Christians that have always shown love and respect towards Islam by showing them we in turn have the utmost respect for their beliefs,” Riche said.

Riche, who is also the founder of the EidPrayLove website - which aims to show Islam as a religion of peace - added that he hopes the campaign “will show the true face of Islam and take the spotlight away from extremists."

“Despite what our extremists have done to hijack our religion, we believe in peace, love, tolerance & harmony with other faiths.”

“We don't want to be seen as some distant, mysterious faith - we want to be accessible for people to open up to us, that is the only way we can counter the misinformation," he said.

He added that Muslims and Christians alike have thanked him for starting the campaign, and said some Muslim Americans told him they have been doing this in their communities for years.

“We have seen Catholic Priests reaching out to express their love and support for this initiative, other Christians telling us how special it is to them personally that we are pushing such an active show of support and interfaith tolerance," he said.

Muslims from around the world have already joined in with the campaign, including from the UK, the US, Canada, Malaysia, Spain,Australia, Lebanon, Egypt, Palestine, and Pakistan.

Addressing the importance of solidarity in the wake of tragic incidents in Paris, Copenhagen and Chapel Hill in the US, he said: “I believe the root of extremism is lack of education and understanding. The extremists behind these tragedies are all united in their narrow, negative view of the world and other faiths.

“Take for example, the tragic killing of 21 Coptic Christian Egyptians by ISIS in Libya simply for being Christian.

"They are obligated as Muslims to protect Christians that are in danger, this is mandated by prophet Muhammed himself, what they are doing is not Islam full stop," Riche concluded.

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