Last Thursday Cllr Barry Russell and I observed a fast for Ramadan this year following Mayor Boris Johnson’s suggestion earlier this month. We then broke the fast at 7.31pm on Thursday 10th September with the ‘Iftar’ meal as a guest of the Sutton Islamic Centre in Oakhill Road, Sutton, Surrey.

Our friend and colleague Cllr Misdaq Zaidi was an excellent host, spending time explaining the roots of Islam and the significance of Ramadan. We broke their fast with water and dates as per Islamic tradition, alongside a dozen regular worshippers at the Centre.

The London Borough of Sutton has a Muslim population numbering roughly 5000. I found it very illuminating to be welcomed to the Iftar meal to break the fast. It is abundantly clear that the strong Muslim principles of community, hospitality and duty are enduring values and as conservatives we share them. I am very grateful for the copies of The Qur’an presented to us by Misdaq.

It is important that Sutton’s Muslim community feel even more engaged and involved in our public life to promote these common values. Fasting was a real challenge but one that I enjoyed. Watching colleagues eating lunch wasn’t the greatest hardship; having a dry mouth for the day was. Some may dismiss this as a stunt. Others, more worryingly, may baulk against this. This misses the point. The Conservative group want to represent everyone. It is important to understand people to be able to represent them. Spending one day in their shoes gave me more understanding than a raft of ‘community engagement’ events.