Eid al-Fitr
An Imam addresses believers in the Merkez Buyuk Cami mosque in Dortmund, GermanyIna Fassbender/Reuters

Eid al-Fitr, the Islamic festival marking the end of Ramadan, begins with the sighting of the new moon and is celebrated by more than 1.6 billion Muslims around the globe.

Eid is a time when Muslims give thanks and glorify God for giving us strength and the ability to fast during the month of Ramadan. This year in particular as the fasting hours of about 18 hours were the longest for many years.

It is also a day for the family where loved ones, friends and neighbours exchange greetings and gifts as well as visit one another.

This Eid comes at a very challenging time for British Muslims. Domestically a small fringe of extremists among us misuse our peaceful religion for their warped agenda. Another minority of extremists, the far right, take every opportunity to demonise Muslims, create a climate of fear and Islamophobia with a view to creating tensions in our multicultural society.

Another challenge that has befallen us is our government's controversial Counter-Terrorism Strategy (CTS), which without a doubt has a huge impact on the Muslim community and other minorities.

Muslims feel increasingly criminalised, seen as a suspect community and now with the adoption of the CTS we feel the freedom and human rights this nation are so proud of are being chipped away. It would not be a surprised if more British Muslims feel under siege. This is the very situation the extremists within us desire so they can exploit Muslim frustrations and grievances.

British Muslims are also concerned about what is going on in the Muslim world, especially in Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Burma, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. While some may dismiss a connection between foreign policy and life at home, it is sadly a reality. Foreign interference by some Western powers has made things worse which in effect impact on Muslims in the UK – the young in particular.

It is no surprise therefore to see that a small minority of young British men and women have decided to join and fight alongside the extremists abroad, in recent times the so-called Islamic State, better termed as Da'ish.

At the family level, this Eid, like most Eids, you see a flurry of SMS, emails and WhatsApp messages wishing one another Eid greetings. I would not be exaggerating to say I receive 100 such messages every Eid from friends, colleagues and families – not all Muslim.

This time I have decided to take my family and celebrate Eid in the open – especially performing the morning Eid prayers in a park near where I live alongside many more locals. What amazes me is the diversity of people converging in one place to perform the Eid prayer – speaking different languages and wearing different attire. What unites us all is our faith, all converging and praying to one God, Allah – facing the direction of the Qibla in Makkah.

After the prayer, we thank each other, greet each other, exchange gifts, visit one another's houses for food and drink but above all thank Allah for the blessings of Ramadan and now Eid. It is also an opportunity to meet new people and make new friends.

Despite Eid being a sacred Muslim holiday, participation in the celebration is enjoyed by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Here at the Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, our facilities and services are open to all. Anyone passing the mosque will be greeted and welcomed to join in the celebration, for Eid is truly a community festival in the broadest sense.

To me Eid means more than just being able to spend time with the family. Eid and Ramadan have a joint significance: I take Eid as a time to reflect on how Ramadan has helped me to strengthen my faith, myself and my character as a whole and to think about those who have not got the chance to celebrate Eid for different reasons, especially those stricken by poverty, natural disasters or conflicts.

This is why Eid is a chance to multiply good deeds by bringing happiness and pleasure to the hearts of others, by helping and supporting the poor and needy, and by getting involved in pastimes that emphasise the strong and serious Islamic character.

Muhammad, our prophet and messenger of God said: "He who believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him be kind to his neighbour." This is why my wife gets busy to prepare the traditional cake and sweets to distribute it to our neighbours and friends.

Feeling the satisfaction of fasting for a whole month of Ramadan and then thanking God, for helping me to get through it with ease really makes me feel closer to my Lord. I wish each and every one a blessed Eid today.