“What do you mean you’re fasting? You’re going to run the mile!” bellowed my seventh grade physical education teacher.
I tried to formulate a response, attempting to squeeze an explanation out of me. My throat felt empty; I couldn’t find my voice. It was like a blow to my chest: I felt betrayed and speechless simultaneously. My knees rattled as I looked over to my left, 70 or so kids listening to us, all unconcerned.
Ramadan began on April 12 this year along with all the festivities. But with the jubilance, comes a dread for many Muslim students on educating their peers. The comments from other students such as, “How do you live for 30 days without food?” or “Not even water?” are a staple heard by Muslim youth in America.
If you’re Muslim in America (like me), these questions are common. Muslims fast during the most sacred month of Ramadan, the time we believe the first verses of the Quran were revealed to Prophet Mohammed. During this time, Muslims do not eat, drink, smoke, or have sex from dawn to sunset every day for 30 days.
Do I blame my teacher for making me run a mile after hours of not drinking any water? Of course not; he wasn’t purposely trying to torture me, he just didn’t know to ask the right questions about Ramadan and Islam. In fact, the next year, he was much more understanding and helped me create alternate workouts so I didn’t boil under the summer sun.
Some Muslims can’t muster up the courage to talk about their religion in front of other non-Muslims. According to Yaqeen Institute, 1 in 3 children did not want to tell others that they were Muslim and 1 in 6 pretended not to be Muslim. When you factor in that American Muslims make up one percent of the population, this leaves few people to teach misinformed kids about what Ramadan is from personal experience.
Non-Muslims, this is where you come in. Taking a few minutes to learn about Ramadan, Muslim practices during this time, and challenges during Ramadan will be enough to dismantle the largest misconceptions and avoid those awkward questions.
One recent trustworthy resource can be the school library’s Ramadan guide for teachers and students. Here you can find resources on what Ramadan is, a day in the life of a Muslim during Ramadan, Muslim authors, athletes, and activists, and the like. A Ramadan Toolkit was released for teachers on how to accommodate the needs of fasting and practicing students with the hope that those students have a much better school experience during Ramadan with the help of their teachers.
But if you have additional questions after researching, feel free to reach out to your Muslim friends (make sure they are comfortable to talk about their religion and experiences) or your local Muslim Student Association.
This microblog post is unique in that it wasn’t submitted to me in advance of the #microblogmonth event. It was an article in my school newspaper that resonated with me, and so I reached out to the author, Said Aydin, to get permission to share the piece. Thankfully Said said yes.
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