Learning about Ramadan

It’s easy to know what to say to Christians when Christmas rolls around. “Merry Christmas,” of course.

But how many people know how to greet Muslims, Jews, or celebrants of other non-Christian faiths during their observances? This week marked the start of Ramadan for Muslims, who fast from the time the sun rises until it sets for a month. Is it okay to say Happy Ramadan during a holiday meant for reflection and spiritual renewal? Yes. You can say “Ramadan Mubarak” in Arabic, which means either Happy or Blessed Ramadan. Or you can wish your Muslim friends and acquaintances “Ramadan Kareem!” That translates to Noble or Generous Ramadan. You can find out more about Ramadan and how to show your consideration to Muslims in this fun read on CNN.com.

When I’ve given talks about my book, Faith Ed, parents often ask me how they can teach their young children about Islam and other faiths. When it comes to Ramadan, check out the newly published “It’s Ramadan, Curious George,” by Hena Khan or listen together to this wonderful NPR story on Ramadan and the book by Monique Parsons.

But what about Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement? Jews also fast during the holiday, for 24 hours. It is not custom to wish Jews a “happy” Yom Kippur. But you can wish them an easy fast or “g’mar Hatima Tova,” which means “May you be inscribed in book of life.” Want to learn more? Check out MyJewishlearning.com’s resources.

We live in a country with an array of religions and the diversity will only increase in the years to come. We can stay in our own bubbles, our own religious or non-religious communities, or venture outside of them and learn about each other. I try to stay away from politics, but it’s been a difficult year to stay silent in the face of Islamophobic comments made by Donald Trump and other Republican presidential candidates. President Obama didn’t have to mention Trump, now the presumptive Republican nominee, when he released a statement this week with his annual Ramadan greeting. It was ever so clear that Obama was referring to the divisiveness created by Trump’s rhetoric.

“As Muslim Americans celebrate the holy month, I am reminded that we are one American family,” Obama said. “I stand firmly with Muslim American communities in rejection of the voices that seek to divide us or limit our religious freedoms or civil rights. I stand committed to safeguarding the civil rights of all Americans no matter their religion or appearance. I stand in celebration of our common humanity and dedication to peace and justice for all.”

He ended his message with “Ramadan Kareem.” So shall I.


Ps. Read on for news and tidbits about Faith Ed.

Faith Ed to Be Featured on CBS TV Program:
Tune into your local CBS affiliate on June 26 to watch CBS Religion & Culture and its program, Religion & Democracy. It will include interviews with me, Charles C. Haynes of the First Amendment Center, and Maryland high school teacher Christopher Murray. If you want a preview of the scenes during filming, check out photos on the show’s Facebook page.

Harvard Divinity School Religious Literacy Conference: I’ll be one of several speakers at an all-day workshop on religious literacy at Harvard Divinity School. It’s open to the public and begins at 9 a.m.

Paperback launch: It’s official. Faith Ed comes out in paperback on Aug. 23 with an addition – an index handy for use in college classes, training, or simply for your pwm enjoyment. Want to celebrate the paperback release with me in a special way? Come join me at Newtonville Books in Newton, Mass. on Aug. 30 at 7 p.m. Author Tova Mirvis will join me and act as a moderator of a conversation about religion in the public schools. Refreshments provided.

Prose Writer-in-Residence: Come join me for a week this summer, Aug. 6-13, at the Chautauqua Writer’s Center in Chautauqua, NY, on a lake. I’ll teach a daily workshop, “Writing Provocative Stories About Religion,” give a reading and a talk. You can register for the course now.

National Council of Social Studies annual conference: Since registration already has begun, I wanted to let teachers know I will be participating in a workshop about teaching about the world’s religions at this conference on Dec. 1st. It’s a pre-conference clinic.

Keep up with other Faith Ed events by checking out my events listing on my website.

Note: Photo at top is of Muslim men and a boy during afternoon prayer at a mosque in Modesto, Calif. (Photo by Linda K. Wertheimer taking during 2013 reporting trip)

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