So, Boris, fasting for Yom Kippur?

By Marcus Dysch, September 10, 2009
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When Mayor of London Boris Johnson last week urged non-Muslims to fast for a day during Ramadan to learn more about Islam, it was perhaps inevitable that someone would enquire as to his views on the benefits of non-Jews fasting on Yom Kippur.

Perhaps it was equally inevitable that Mr Johnson’s response would come in his trademark garbled fashion.

On Monday, the mayor received a letter from Shimon Samuels of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, who wrote: “A sympathy fast and synagogue visits by Gentiles, led by Your Lordship, would be an important statement to contain the resurgence of antisemitism in the UK.”

When the JC asked whether the mayor thought non-Jews might benefit from fasting on Judaism’s holiest day, a City Hall spokeswoman would only confirm that a response was being prepared.

But despite spending Tuesday posting messages on Twitter, including pictures of him meeting actress Kelly Brook, Mr Johnson did not have time directly to answer the Yom Kippur question.

Instead it was left to his spin doctor, former BBC political correspondent Guto Harri, to try to sort the mayor’s thoughts into a coherent position.

Mr Harri explained that Mr Johnson believed that it might be easier for non-Jews and non-Muslims to fast on Ramadan than on Yom Kippur, because there were so many more days of the Muslim festival from which to choose.

Any parallel between the two festivals was “not close enough to be relevant”.

However, Mr Harri said, if a non-Jew were to ask their Jewish friend how they could learn more about Yom Kippur and it was suggested that they fast, then “by implication” the mayor would support such a move.

Still confused? So are we.

It was, however, an ideal opportunity for Mr Johnson’s nemesis, former mayor Ken Livingstone, to hit back. He said: “You do not have to get circumcised or give up pork to understand Judaism. If you cannot understand Islam without fasting, it’s ridiculous. I’m an atheist but I understand the importance of religion. Boris’s focus is on photo-ops. I do not think you have to live the life to respect someone else’s religion.”

    Last updated: 4:13pm, September 10 2009