Races: athletes in China, candidates in the U.S. My mind races ahead to the month of Ramadan, which begins in September.

Upcoming guest James Prosek — fisherman, writer, artist — insists that some species should be left nameless. Let nature be mysterious. I agree with that when it comes to my own quiet spiritual/religious practice, of which the thirty-day marathon of daily fasting is a public part.

It’s hard to wake up before sunrise, try to eat something, sneak in a few more hours of sleep, then go through the day without food, water, or a full night’s sleep. I’m already a clumsy space-case on most days; then, it only gets worse. For thirty days I strive for grace but battle irritability. I reach for understanding but collide with doubt. I pray for a compassionate heart but am too hungry to be unselfish. That’s when the meaning behind this marathon, this race, shines.

I know, too, that the Muslim world struggles the same way. I’m not talking about Asia or Africa. I’m talking about my parents in their empty nest fretting about their unmarried 31-year-old son. I’m talking about my little sister who just moved by herself to Toronto. I’m talking about the bounce of my grandmother’s laughing belly. I’m talking about family I have here and the eagerness of my cousin’s kids to earn holy Brownie points. And in this small world of mine, we are exhausted by the political talk about the larger Muslim world, salt in a wound — a wounded body that once soared like a gymnast.

Krista just last week interviewed dapper expert Vali Nasr. It’s a great interview about the political situation in the Middle East. We planned to broadcast this program in September, in the lead-up to the November election… and in the middle of Ramadan. Something about that felt off to me, like a program about the Catholic sexual abuse scandal on Christmas.

Discussing the Timing of a Show on Islam and Ramadan
(photo: Trent Gilliss)

So I explained that to the rest of the gang, trying not to get caught up in the emotion of naming something I prefer to keep nameless. I’m a radio producer, supposedly professional, but some things hit close to home and push you away from objectivity.

All other times of the year, we have our daily toils and the evils in the news. But not in Ramadan. Ramadan is a time of self-perfection and moral beauty. Ramadan is something to protect, for all the discombobulation I feel at 4 a.m., when sleep makes sense but fasting doesn’t. And even though I don’t know how to say all this out loud, I hoped to have said enough when we huddled to discuss my concerns about the air date.

Part of me felt unreasonable trying to mess with the production schedule, but I’m grateful to the others on staff for understanding my concerns. We pushed the broadcast date of that Vali Nasr show by three weeks, to October.

And, hopefully, we’ll be able to put together a true Ramadan show next year.

Share Your Reflection



I quite appreciated the gesture of you speaking up, and your helpful analogy. I was humbled in knowing that I was somewhat oblivious to the spirit of a sacred time of someone's tradition -- a tradition that I haven't experienced first-hand, to be honest -- as it relates to the timing and production of a program.

I tend to be sensitive to the pacing of an individual's voice in a particular program and realize that same awareness can be applied to a culture or a religion too. And, as I know all too well from my years sucking weight for wrestling weigh-ins, one must be delicate with a ravenous man. Much compassion is necessary! *wink*

Yeah, I guess we typically try to peg things to an event, as opposed to specifically not pegging things because of an event. And that lunar calendar sure doesn't help people keep track of this month that keeps moving back 11 days every year (in comparison to the solar calendar). It even seems to creep up on us. I feel like we're in the middle of summer and yet I'm thinking about something that will be in "fall" when things are more "serious." Maybe it's just this intrusion of fall thinking into summer...

It's great that you were able to speak up and that your team moved the broadcast of the Nasr interview to after Ramadan. I also think of the month of fasting as a time when we are trying to be at our best, unified in our worship of God and trying to treat everyone in our lives with kindness and respect. My husband and I always get depressed when Ramadan brings newspaper headlines: "Security Forces Ready for Increased Attacks as Ramadan Begins", above a generic picture of a black-clad woman crying. There's a place for news about conflicts, but also for some good news about the positive side to humanity and religion. I can't wait for your Ramadan show next year.

Katie, I really appreciate what you wrote. I think back to a few years ago when I was living in Montreal, there had been no mention in the newspaper of Ramadan for the whole month. Then, on the last day, on something like Page A16, there was mention of some bloodbath in Iraq at a mosque. And there is a sizable Muslim community in Montreal. I thought, "My God, is that the only thing they can report about "Islam" at all?" (I hear echoes of this in the upcoming interview on the Ethics of Aid with Binyavanga Wainaina, in his stark critique of what place Africa occupies in Western journalism.) It made me furious. That's not the emotion I want to be feeling during at that time.

And though the program with Vali Nasr was very intelligent and well received, for which I was glad, I'm also glad we could give the Muslim listeners a bit of a break, not have to think about geopolitical wars and such during that time. And somehow, maybe I'm just rationalizing, it seemed to fit the post-election mood better than our original intended broadcast in the middle of September.


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