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Saturday, June 25, 2022

LMH under fire for Ramadan Ball

Georgie Cutmore reports on the outcry surrounding LMH's Balll timing

Students have raised concerns over the Lady Margaret Hall ball being held in Ramadan, which has left some Muslim students feeling overlooked and excluded from the event.

One Muslim student at LMH, who chose to remain anonymous, expressed their disappointment in the conduct of both the Governing Body and Ball Committee. They objected that, despite vocal discontent among Muslim students at LMH, neither the Committee nor the Governing Body offered an explanation or apology for the Ball being held in Ramadan.  

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting, spiritual reflection and heightened worship. As one of the Five Pillars of Islam, Ramadan is regarded as a fundamental practice for Muslims. This year, in the UK, the period lasts from the dawn of Sat 2 April till sunset of Sun 1 May. 

The common practice is to fast from dawn to sunset every day before observing a number of traditional meals such as the iftar, which is the first meal eaten in the evening to break the fast.

The student highlighted that the dining aspect of the event completely excludes Muslim attendees. They criticized the timing of the dinner, which begins before those observing Ramadan can break their fast. They also went on to cite the College’s statutes, arguing that the principles of justice and fairness which LMH strives to adhere to have been overlooked in this case. 

The student indicated that the Muslim community at LMH are seeking greater recognition of the issue, as well as an apology from the Governing Body and Ball Committee. 

The LMH Ball Committee told Cherwell about the process behind the scheduling decision. The Committee had initially sought to hold the event on 14 May 2022, which would accommodate those observing Ramadan. In a meeting on 3 Nov 2021, LMH’s JCR President, Vice-President and Treasurer brought the proposal to the College’s Governing Body, a group comprising the Principal and seven other senior fellows. The proposal for 14 May was rejected due to its proximity to English, Biology and Engineering exams, which begin as early as 16 May.  

The JCR and Ball Committees also offered alternative dates in the weeks immediately following 14 May, including a date in ninth week. The Governing Body decided that these dates would be too disruptive for those taking and revising for exams. The proposal for ninth week was rejected due to concern for first years taking Prelims.  

The Governing Body resolved that the Ball would have to be held in first week, or not at all. With the understanding that large-scale events in College may only be held on Saturdays, the Ball Committee was left to settle for this suggestion and schedule the 2022 Ball for 30 April, which falls during Ramadan.  

LMH JCR President, Lewis Boyd, said that Ramadan “was not brought up in the governing body meeting. The ball committee had planned the schedule carefully so that the ball wouldn’t clash with Ramadan. 

“However, there was a small miscommunication between the ball committee and the JCR core exec before the meeting. The ball committee asked that we represent and advocate for the 14th of May, but didn’t explain why. I don’t believe they were expecting the original proposal to be rejected, and so didn’t expect us to have to argue against it being on the 30th.”

Boyd added that the JCR executive was unaware of the dates of Ramadan, so did not bring it up during the meeting. As a result, they pushed for later dates because they had been told they would be preferred.

The Ball Committee has offered the following apology: 

“We’d like to stress that Ramadan was a key consideration for the Ball Committee, but we’re sorry to have made a mistake during the process for deciding the date, and to Muslim students and their friends for the impact our mistake has had. We want everyone to be able to enjoy our ball, and we’re disappointed that we’ve fallen short in this way.” 

The Committee highlighted that “plenty” of halal food will be available when Muslin students break their fast, and that the JCR would be available as a prayer room. Prayer mats, water, and dates (which are traditionally eaten during iftar) will be provided in the JCR.

The Committee has extended their ticket exchange period to 15 April and will continue to issue refunds so students who are unable to attend the ball because they are observing Ramadan can get a refund.

For the next ball, the Committee are working to make sure that a member of the Committee will be able to sit in on relevant meetings of the Governing Body to reduce the risk of further miscommunication

Lady Margaret Hall has been approached for comment.

Image Credit: Lady Margaret Hall via https://www.lmh.ox.ac.uk/about-lmh

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