Photo: Abdullah Arif | Unsplash

Photo: Abdullah Arif | Unsplash

Covering Muslim holidays fosters trust and inclusivity

How are holidays and special events being covered?

I’m getting ready for Ramadan as I finish up my resource in this last month of my RJI Fellowship. The timing is excellent; let’s dive into a snapshot from the toolkit on this very topic.

This year Ramadan is set to begin on the evening of March 21 or 22, depending on the first sighting of the new moon.  Ramadan is one of the holiest months for Muslims. It is the month that the Quran, the holy book for Muslims, was revealed to the Prophet Muhammed. 

To honor this month, Muslims abstain from food, drink and sex, from before sunrise (the fajr prayer) until sunset (the maghrib prayer) each day. Muslims strengthen their relationship with Allah by praying, reflecting on themselves and spending time with loved ones in worship. At the end of the month, a celebration begins known as Eid-ul-Fitr. 

So how does the media cover this important month? 

Well, only 60% of our country even knows what Ramadan is, according to Pew Research. Covering Muslim events will foster harmony and inclusion with the Muslim communities in your coverage area.

Why is it important to cover Eid and Ramadan?

The majority of media coverage surrounding Muslim communities has been centered around violence and public policy. This creates a one-dimensional perception of Muslims. Providing regular coverage of Eid and Ramadan, as is done with other religious holidays such as Hanukkah and Christmas, would show the public more positive portrayals of Islam, would illustrate who Muslims are, and would encourage understanding and empathy.

So what are some key definitions to know when covering Ramadan?

  • Ramadan: A holy month in the Islamic year in which Muslims fast. The word Ramadan comes from “ramad” in Arabic from the intense heat of the stones that is supposed to symbolize the inner struggle of mankind.
  • Fasting: One of the Five Pillars of Islam in which Muslims do not eat or drink between dawn and sunset.
  • Suhoor: It is the last meal eaten before the day of fasting begins.
  • Iftar: The meal eaten after sunset during Ramadan when Muslims break their fast.
  • Masjid: Synonymous to “mosque;” a place of worship and known as the house of God.
  • Laylat Al Qadr: This translates to the “Night of Power” and is the exact day in which the Quran was revealed. Muslims do not know the specific day, but many believe it falls in the last 10 days of Ramadan. The Quran says that those who worship that night reap many awards.
  • Taraweeh: Special prayers each night when longer portions of the Quran are recited. These are not part of the five daily prayers.

Tips for coverage

  • Be cognizant and patient that Ramadan can start on different days due to moon sighting or calculation depending on the method used.
  • Attend local and community events. Mosques often host iftars, which are a good way to interact with the community. 
  • Start reporting/engaging before Ramadan; allow time to build connections and develop story plans and ideas. 
  • Be mindful of the fasting schedule during Ramadan and schedule interviews accordingly. Be patient if someone can’t get back to you as quickly as you might otherwise expect.
  • Be proactive: Ask community members what is being done differently this Ramadan, if they have any concerns or if there is a story that should be uplifted.

By keeping these points in mind, you’ll likely have a more successful story and encourage spreading the Ramadan spirit!


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