Someone shared this photo in one of the comments to a posting on my wall. We certainly applaud the move to encourage neighbourliness in the month of Ramadhan among residents regardless of race, language or religion to have dinner together, which in this case was done in conjunction with Iftar by Muslims neighbours.
Nevertheless, there is a need to also recognise that Iftar is not just dinner, ordinarily. Iftar is the time when Muslims break their fast. And Muslims who fast, break their whole-day fasting with only halal foods.
Having a potluck Iftar event is acceptable. In fact it is very much encouraged in Islam to share foods with others, what more during Iftar. However, the inclusion of non-halal foods in the Iftar could have been an oversight on the part of the event organisers. Appropriate advice should have been given earlier.
Iftar is not just another dinner. Iftar has its special meaning to Muslims, and there is decorum associated with that special meaning.
And decorum associated with certain terms is nothings new. There is decorum in the way the National Flag is to be handled, for example.
The National Flag is not just a piece of cloth having red and white colours with a crescent and 5 stars on it. There is a Statute governing conduct with regards to the National Flag [See SINGAPORE ARMS AND FLAG AND NATIONAL ANTHEM ACT (CHAPTER 296, SECTION 2) and SINGAPORE ARMS AND FLAG AND NATIONAL ANTHEM RULES].
Hence, just like the National Flag, there are certain decorum that needs to be accorded to Iftar too. And one of them is the provisioning of halal foods.
Non-Muslims are free to join in Iftar with Muslims. We see that happening in Singapore at many Iftar events organised by Mosques and other Muslim organisations throughout Ramadhan. Nevertheless, since it is an Iftar event, decorum for the event should also be observed. Halal foods should be presented to all in any Iftar event because Iftar is for Muslims to break their fast. Non-Muslims are always welcomed to join in the Iftar, where only halal foods are served.
Perhaps more needs to be done to help our non-Muslim neigbours understand the meaning of Iftar, and the associated decorum that needs to be observed when Iftar is organised as part of neighbourliness for all to come together regardless of race, language or religion.