Religion, Relationships and More Angles for Covering Ramadan

My mom had a rule when I was a kid during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan:

There is no whining during fasting.

Spacer SpacerIf you’re hungry, she’d say, suck it up. If you’re thirsty, don’t complain.

That, of course, is easier said than done.

But my mom would say that Ramadan is a time to sacrifice, to reflect, to focus on your faith and forgo all things trivial.

It’s also a perfect time for good journalism on the subject, seeing as Ramadan started this week.

Here are some quick ideas:

  • Shadow kids who are observing their first Ramadan this year. See how they survive, how they negotiate the daunting school lunchroom, how hard it is to wake up for the pre-dawn breakfast. This is a huge I’m-a-grownup moment for any Muslim youth and would make for a compelling story.
  • Muslims break fast at sunset each day with a daily feast of traditional ethnic food called the iftar meal. Some families go overboard with the meal, turning Ramadan into a month-long Thanksgiving, inviting family and friends. The scene makes for great video.
  • Meanwhile, there are special evening prayers to attend. Is it OK to leave a little early to get to the mosque?
  • Look for stories about relationships. I had a non-Muslim girlfriend once who had never fasted, but who decided to bond with me by doing so.
  • The biology of fasting is fascinating. Some say if you fast – and don’t overeat at iftar – it can be healthy. Others tell me it’s bad for your body. Which is it? The biggest problem I face during Ramadan is the inability to exercise. You have no energy during the day. You’re not taking in water. You can’t work out after having a big meal in the evening. What’s the solution? 
  • Tricks of the trade: How do the seasoned vets do it? I know some Muslims who sail through the day without a whimper. How can they ignore their hunger pains and still function?
  • I was always amazed at how my mom could fast all day and still toil away in the hot kitchen preparing the iftar meal. That would make a great story for the food section.
  • For an Iraqi correspondent: How do Muslims find the focus and strength to fast during a time of war?
  • For a business reporter: Do workplaces with high numbers of Muslims accommodate for Ramadan? I’m not sure how my dad, who worked in a factory for nearly 30 years, didn’t faint from dehydration, especially in the heat. He felt weak during the day, and I’m sure more breaks could have helped him.

Islamicity.com is a good resource for learning more about Ramadan. If there are Muslims in your newsroom, lean on them. Or, if you really want to write an intimate Ramadan story, fast yourself and write a first-person account about the experience.

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