This year brings a kind of special anniversary for me. It’s exactly 10 years ago since I started fasting during Ramadan. Now, even the not so wise reader should be able to figure out that that means I began fasting in 2001. And the slightly wiser reader will be able to figure out that Ramadan in 2001 came after September. Or perhaps more precisely: After 11. September.
I didn’t grow up in a very religious home and that’s putting it mildly. My father comes from a Muslim family, but was never big on practicing (during university, he was a member of the Catholic club). As a child I had many Muslim classmates and I remember a slight competition at a much too young age about who could fast the most days. But other than that, fasting was never a part of my life.
Then came 11. September 2001. No need to go into details about what happened then. But it started something in me. For the first time being Muslim openly seemed to be in opposition to being Danish, European, Western. I had always categorized myself as Muslim, but never given much thought to what that actually meant to me. All of a sudden I was forced to think those thoughts through.
My conclusion was quite clear. I am Muslim. And there’s a reason I’m Muslim and not Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu or whatever other religion out there. For the first time I felt the need to show my surroundings that. And perhaps more importantly, to show them that I was in no way ashamed or embarrassed of it. I know this is a process many others than me went through. Some decided to put on a hijab. Others chose to begin praying five times a day. For me, the right thing to do was to begin fasting.
Now, I’m not going to pretend that I enjoy fasting or look forward to Ramadan. I know people who love the month because of the spirituality they develop through not eating or drinking. I just think it’s hard. But once it’s over and I’ve made it through, I can’t help feeling a tiny bit proud of myself for having done it. And for being Muslim.