A Catholic teenager comes under fire for fasting Ramadan

In the month of Ramadan, Muslims are required to fast from food and drink from sunrise until sunset. Most Muslims will admit how hard that task is, especially when Ramadan happens in the summer. So it was a surprise for me to hear about a Christian teenager who decided to fast for the whole month of Ramadan in solidarity with her Muslim friend.

According to oregonlive.com, Jordan Pahl, a17 year old Catholic, decided to take her friend Dahlia Bazzaz’s challenge to fast during the month of Ramadan

It all started last year during the Christian fasting period of Lent, when Jordan complained to Dahlia about her promise to give up sweets for 40 days.

“(Dahlia) was like, ‘Well, Ramadan is 10 times harder than Lent,'” Jordan says.

Jordan jokingly told her friend she might try fasting for Ramadan. But the joke became reality when Jordan decided to follow through on it last summer.

“If you challenge her, she will almost do everything,” Dahlia says. “I kind of admired that.”

Jordan’s family supported her in the fast and didn’t see it as an act of rebellion. She doesn’t see Islam and Christianity as competing forces but believes that one must be willing to try what they don’t know. In a response to a blog that attacked her decision to fast the month of Ramadan she wrote:

I am in no way suggesting that Islam or their fasting practices are better or worse than those of  Catholicism. What I appreciated about the philosophy of Ramadan was that it really helps you to examine the way you live … The whole purpose of Ramadan is to understand the plight of those who have no food and have no water for an entire month. Whether or not you agree with the philosophy of Islam, you have to admit that understanding the situation than those less fortunate than yourself is an honorable mission.

Jordan drew some attacks from some Christians who claim that her participation in the fast is an act of worship of another God. They used an out of context verse from the Hebrew bible to prove their point

I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt have no strange gods before me (Exodus 20)

The Catholic school Jordan attends also came under fire for having many non-catholic students and for tolerance of others religious practices. This is ironic because these people are often the ones who oppose the building of Muslim schools in America.  Now, they also don’t want Muslims to attend Christian schools. Apparently, fundamentalists don’t believe in Muslims’ right to education or religious practices. These are also the same people who criticize some Muslim countries for limiting the rights of Christian groups. Such double standards show their lack of belief in democracy and right of worship, and strong conviction that they have superior beliefs.

What amazes me most about such people is that those who appear to be most religious, and self appointed guardians of the faith, seem to be the least knowledgeable of their own religious books and traditions. I don’t understand how a Christian can stand against compassion from their study of Jesus’ character. He dined with the prostitutes and tax collectors and spent time with the Samaritans who according to the Christian gospel were viewed as inferior to the Jews at that time. Yet some Christian fundamentalists’ view of Christianity today is far from the tolerance existing in Jesus’ teachings.

The same problem exists with Muslim fundamentalists. The reason some Muslims fear freedom of religion is the consequence of such freedom. They believe in conformity and fake unity even at the price of violence and murder. However the Quran is clear about the importance of diversity and cooperation between all humans and not only Muslims.

O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other) (Al-Hujurat 49:13; Yosuf Ali translation).

The story of Jordan and Dahlia should be an inspiration for how different religious groups should coexist together. We can learn from each other’s faiths instead of using it to spread hatred. This year, Jordan and Dahlia are fasting together again. May it be an easy fast.

Alex Cromwell contributed to this article