The original version of this post first ran on August 8, 2011. Four years later, from ISIS brutality to the church massacre in Charleston, we are no closer to being a peaceful global family. Ramadan began last Thursday and continues through July 17, offering us a chance to pledge ourselves anew to peace and to each other, whatever our religion and race. As the pastor of Charleston’s New Hope A.M.E. Church said, “We cannot make sense of what has happened, but we can come together.”
Ramadan and Compassion — “We Are Like Family”
Ramadan began last week, so I wished my next door neighbors a heartfelt, but no doubt, badly pronounced Ramadan Mubarak — blessed Ramadan. They are Muslim, from, well, it doesn’t matter what country they’re from. Muslims make up an estimated 20 percent of the world’s population and they live everywhere, from Oslo to Miami. My neighbors have been living here longer than I have. We are different, but we live next to each other. As the patriarch said to us the day my husband and I moved in, “We are like family.”We are like family. Click To Tweet
We may be an odd family, but honey, what family isn’t? We have different schedules, different demands, different priorities. That’s okay — with family, you don’t have to be crazy about each other or in each other’s business every minute. You just have to respect each other.
I’m not Muslim but I’ve always thought Ramadan was pretty cool. It’s thirty days of fasting and prayer from dawn to dusk, a time of returning to yourself and your family, a time to pledge your faith anew.
One of the core precepts of Islam is forgiveness. That’s a tough one. Our society is riven — rich and poor, black and white, Muslims and Christians, Palestinians and Israelis, Kurds, Shia, Sunni, North Koreans and South Koreans, Republicans and Democrats, and the ever-divisive herbivores and omnivores. We’ve been fighting over religion and race and our side versus the other side for all of recorded history. And we still haven’t figured out it doesn’t work.
We are a multiplicity of races, religions and beliefs. So to say each nation must live as one people with one ethos, well, that’s repression, isn’t it? On top of which, it’s like wishing for the return of 8-track tapes. Not gonna happen. Muslims and agnostics can and do live within a stone’s throw of each other. The question is, how to do it without throwing stones.
Ramadan takes its name from al-ramad — intense heat. It happens during the hottest month of the year, and with increased population and climate change, it’s only getting hotter. We are all vying for the same limited natural resources. We continue to tax them. Rather than trying to ship anyone who doesn’t think the same way we do to another country, we’re going to have to think — and eat — differently. Study after study has shown a less meat- intensive diet means more land, more food, more water for all of us. Just tweaking what we eat has huge consequences. For the first time ever, the preliminary draft of the new USDA Dietary Guidelines links reduced meat consumption to a more sustainable planet.
Call me crazy. Call me worse. But the fact is, diverse as we all are, we still have to live together. And since we do, it helps to come at it from the point of view of compassion (a big vegan concept) and forgiveness (a big Muslim concept). And a little less meat would be a good thing, too.
My neighbor’s teenage son shoots hoops and eats pizza. I do yoga and probably cook as much Arabic food as he gets at home. Whatever your beliefs, I wish you Ramadan Mubarak. As my neighbor said, we are like family. We live together. Or we do not live at all.