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Fasting during Ramadan should not prevent Muslims taking care of their eyes

Scottish Muslims are being urged to be aware of their eye health when fasting during the religious month of Ramadan, which starts this weekend.

Throughout Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating and drinking during daylight hours.

Gozie JoeAdigwe of sight loss charity RNIB Scotland said: "People from some ethnic minority communities can be more vulnerable to some eye conditions, so it important that they speak to their GP if there are any concerns over breaking the fasting through taking medicine, and also the local Imam."

In Scotland, RNIB has worked with ethnic minority groups for over 12 years to raise awareness of eye health issues, she said.

“People in these groups can experience additional problems, including cultural and language barriers. More needs to be done to reach those groups where the take-up of eye-health services remains low.

"The risk of diabetic eye disease, for instance, is around six times greater in people from a South Asian background. So controlling things like dietary intake and blood sugar are still as vital as ever when your daily routine is changed.”

Some Muslims are also concerned that using eye drops to treat another common sight condition, glaucoma might invalidate their fast, particularly where the drop reaches the back of the throat, and refrain until after the month ends. But this could lead to deterioration in their sight.

The International Glaucoma Association has worked with the Muslim Council of Britain to advise people to continue to take drops throughout Ramadan, putting them in before dawn and after dusk.

During Ramadan, the Muslim community in Scotland is being invited to support an appeal to help RNIB reach out further.

Jamila Shaikh, who has cone dystrophy which affects her ability to sense colours, works as a community development officer for RNIB Scotland. "I would not be who I am if it hadn’t been for RNIB," she said. "I have become more confident and gained a lot more independence. I now help and support other visually impaired people through the sight loss journey helping them to live a more independent and inclusive life."

Shaukat Sultan of the Muslim Council of Scotland, who has glaucoma, backed the appeal. "Ensuring eye health and managing health conditions is important, and if anyone has concerns over how to manage this over Ramadan they should speak to their doctor and the local Iman for guidance.

"I support RNIB Scotland’s appeal because charity, known as sadaqah in Islam is not just a humanitarian act," he said. "It is also a religious duty for Muslim men and women. Ramadan encourages these acts of kindness towards others."

As well as advice and support on eye-health issues, RNIB provides aids and equipment, audiobooks, and campaigns to improve life for blind and partially sighted people. Around 62 per cent of its income comes through donations, legacies and wills, volunteer fundraising and collection boxes.