5 Ramadan surprises: UK is teaching us about kindness in a long hot fast

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series 5 Ramadan Surprises
A little girl peers through a doorway into the night prayers at a mosque in Indonesia. Photo by David Crumm.

A little girl peers through a doorway into the night prayers at a mosque in Indonesia. Photo by David Crumm.

From Dr. Wayne Baker: This week, we welcome Read the Spirit Editor David Crumm, a longtime specialist in writing about world religions, reporting on 5 things that may surprise you about Ramadan. Today through Friday, David will publish 5 columns that can help us to build healthier, happier communities—if we share them with friends.
Here is David’s first column …

FIFTEEN HOT HOURS. Without even a drop of water.

That’s the huge challenge for Muslim families this year. The Islamic calendar “moves forward” a couple of weeks, each year, so this fasting month will be the longest and hottest in decades. (Read more in Stephanie Fenton’s complete Ramadan story.)

As Dr. Baker has reported, social scientists studying global culture have concluded that America’s No. 1 character strength is: Kindness. This week is an ideal opportunity for all of us to express our kindness—the all-American spirit of caring—by greeting our Muslim neighbors. You can do it today by adding your own “Happy Ramadan” note in the comment area, below.

But, do you know what tends to happen when Ramadan arrives each year? Once again, we will see some friction from non-Muslims complaining about the occasional Ramadan greetings via TV, radio and newspapers.

How the UK’s Channel 4 is practicing Ramadan hospitality

In truth, the brief Ramadan greetings in American news media are few and far between compared with Christmas greetings—so they don’t stir much public resistance. But, in the UK this summer, a controversy is brewing among right-wing political groups and Britain’s famous Channel 4. In 2003, Parliament updated laws governing British television—including a clear mandate to Channel 4 to try innovative projects, especially in welcoming the UK’s ever-increasing cultural diversity.

This year, as Ramadan begins, Channel 4 will interrupt scheduled programming—very, very early in the morning—to remind Muslims to get up and prepare for the sunrise and the long fast that is about to start. Plus, Channel 4 will offer more daily reminders and prayer broadcasts on its website.

Rashid Khan

Rashid Khan

Even more exiting—from our point of view at Read the Spirit (although condemned by British right wingers)—is a special month-long programming emphasis: 4RAMADAN. Channel 4 still will carry its regular lineup of hit TV series, but this special effort adds new online resources for understanding Ramadan as well as some fascinating new TV programs. One TV show features a former professional rugby player turned award-winning documentary filmmaker, Rashid Khan, who traveled the width and breadth of Britain, reporting on the significance of the fasting month in various communities. I love the title for his show: A Very British Ramadan.

Please: Show how truly kind we are—right now—by doing three things: First, click one of the blue-“f” Facebook icons and “Like” this column to signal to your friends that you’re a welcoming person as Ramadan begins. Second, if you’ve got a Muslim relative, friend or colleague, click on the little envelope-shaped icon and email this column to them with a hearty: “Happy Ramadan.” (Or, if you want to get fancy, email “Ramadan Mubarak,” which means “Blessed Ramadan.”) And third, take just a moment and type a few words of Ramadan greeting in the Comment section below.

I know that many readers are eager to check out the Channel 4 offerings. So, we’ve got a short Channel 4 promo video, below. Click on the screen to view it. (Don’t see a screen in your version of this story? Try clicking on the headline of this column and reloading it in your browser.)


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small The Beauty of Ramadan by Najah BazzyCare for more on Ramadan?

THE HOLIDAY: Stephanie Fenton has a complete holiday story, packed with links to news from around the world and even some delicious Ramadan recipes, as well.

THE FOODS:  As you will learn in future Our Values columns this week, Ramadan is as much about thankful appreciation for favorite foods as it is about the fast itself. Think of Ramadan, perhaps, as four weeks of nightly Thanksgiving meals. Care to taste what many Muslim families will enjoy at iftar? Feed the Spirit columnist Bobbie Lewis is beginning a two-part column on favorite Ramadan recipes from an Afghani-American family. Her first column includes a recipe for a wonderfully spicy-and-savory vegetarian stuffed flat bread.

THE BOOK: Read the Spirit publishes The Book to read about Ramadan: Najah Bazzy’s  The Beauty of Ramadan.