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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

The Triumph of Ramadan: The Many Stories and Many Faces of Muslim Identity
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Two years ago I had the privilege of interviewing three dozen people for an online project we were calling “Expressions of Muslim Identity.” It was a single phrase that sparked this initiative: "the Muslim world." This three-word bit of shorthand was — and still is — being used by television reporters and newspaper columnists, bloggers and foreign correspondents, and it was even creeping into drafts of our production scripts.
But how could this phrase possibly be applied to more than a billion Muslims living in all cultures and segments of society — from Indonesia to Saudi Arabia, from Turkey to the United States and Canada? When we journalists repeatedly employ this phrase into our scripts and our copy, how do we homogenize this diverse group of people and create a monolithic bloc with erased faces? 
So we aimed to change the conversation — for ourselves and for our audiences — by directly appealing to Muslims. We asked them to respond to these questions:
What does “being Muslim” mean to you?
What do you find beautiful about Islam?
How does it find expression in your daily life?
What hopes, questions, and concerns are on your mind as you ponder the future of your tradition?
We received hundreds of eloquent responses and selected more than 30 people to interview. What was meant to be an online-only project quickly morphed into a radio an podcast production. Our intent was to craft one hour of radio to be called "Living Islam," but, once we started listening to all these voices, we realized that almost every Muslim offered an unsolicited story about Ramadan.
With all these wonderful memories of fasting and prayer and family, we decided to create a second hour of radio featuring the voices of 14 Muslims. Even then, we were still discarding more than double that number of poignant stories about Ramadan, so we created a special podcast that was promoted by iTunes: 30 voices in 30 days, one voice for each day of Ramadan. “Revealing Ramadan” was the result, and I couldn’t be prouder.
Give it a listen and share with your friends. Whether you know a little or a lot about this holiest month, you’ll be moved and reminded of the distinct character of the many Muslims who observe Ramadan. They will delight and surprise you, and paint a self-portrait of what it means to be Muslim in their own words.
About the image: Mushda Ali, a young Bangladeshi Muslim artist, posted this self portrait on Flickr with this line from Flavia Weedn: “If one dream should fall and break into a thousand pieces, never be afraid to pick one of those pieces up and begin again.”

The Triumph of Ramadan: The Many Stories and Many Faces of Muslim Identity

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Two years ago I had the privilege of interviewing three dozen people for an online project we were calling “Expressions of Muslim Identity.” It was a single phrase that sparked this initiative: "the Muslim world." This three-word bit of shorthand was — and still is — being used by television reporters and newspaper columnists, bloggers and foreign correspondents, and it was even creeping into drafts of our production scripts.

But how could this phrase possibly be applied to more than a billion Muslims living in all cultures and segments of society — from Indonesia to Saudi Arabia, from Turkey to the United States and Canada? When we journalists repeatedly employ this phrase into our scripts and our copy, how do we homogenize this diverse group of people and create a monolithic bloc with erased faces? 

So we aimed to change the conversation — for ourselves and for our audiences — by directly appealing to Muslims. We asked them to respond to these questions:

  • What does “being Muslim” mean to you?
  • What do you find beautiful about Islam?
  • How does it find expression in your daily life?
  • What hopes, questions, and concerns are on your mind as you ponder the future of your tradition?

We received hundreds of eloquent responses and selected more than 30 people to interview. What was meant to be an online-only project quickly morphed into a radio an podcast production. Our intent was to craft one hour of radio to be called "Living Islam," but, once we started listening to all these voices, we realized that almost every Muslim offered an unsolicited story about Ramadan.

With all these wonderful memories of fasting and prayer and family, we decided to create a second hour of radio featuring the voices of 14 Muslims. Even then, we were still discarding more than double that number of poignant stories about Ramadan, so we created a special podcast that was promoted by iTunes: 30 voices in 30 days, one voice for each day of Ramadan. “Revealing Ramadan” was the result, and I couldn’t be prouder.

Give it a listen and share with your friends. Whether you know a little or a lot about this holiest month, you’ll be moved and reminded of the distinct character of the many Muslims who observe Ramadan. They will delight and surprise you, and paint a self-portrait of what it means to be Muslim in their own words.

About the image: Mushda Ali, a young Bangladeshi Muslim artist, posted this self portrait on Flickr with this line from Flavia Weedn: “If one dream should fall and break into a thousand pieces, never be afraid to pick one of those pieces up and begin again.”

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Day 29 - Kari Ansari: “Waiting for One More Ramadan”

Revealing Ramadan: 30 Days, 30 Voices [mp3, 2:07]

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Kari AnsariOur 29th voice is an American-born woman who says that her conversion to Islam has made her a better feminist. Kari Ansari is editor-in-chief of “America’s Muslim Family Magazine” and lives with her husband and four children in suburban Chicago.

Check back on this blog each day or on our Facebook page to hear a new voice in our “Revealing Ramadan” series. If you’re the on demand type or simply need a more automated form of listening, we’ve produced a special podcast feed that’s available now. Oh, and a special show too!

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Day 28 - Saeed Purcell: “The Last Ten Days”

Revealing Ramadan: 30 Days, 30 Voices [mp3, 6:19]

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Our 28th voice in this series is a man who converted to Islam more than 15 years ago. Saeed Purcell “passed through” other faiths before becoming a Muslim. The turning point? When he read Malcolm X’s autobiography, which led him to read the Qur’an.

Here, Saeed recollects one of his first Ramadans when he spent the last ten days alone in a mosque praying and fasting and spiritually cleansing himself.

Check back on this blog each day or on our Facebook page to hear a new voice in our “Revealing Ramadan” series. If you’re the on demand type or simply need a more automated form of listening, we’ve produced a special podcast feed that’s available now. Oh, and a special show too!

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Day 27 - Sakina Al-Amin: “Sharing Qur’an and Samosas”

Revealing Ramadan: 30 Days, 30 Voices [mp3, 6:41]

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Sakina Al-AminOn this 27th day of Ramadan: Sakina Al-Amin, a young African-American woman who recently graduated from the University of Michigan. For the first nine years of her life, she was raised in a idyllic Muslim village nestled into the mountains of New Mexico, just north of Los Alamos. She shares two stories: one about celebrating Ramadan under the stars of the Southwest and the other of breaking fast with three strangers at a dollar store.

Check back on this blog each day or on our Facebook page to hear a new voice in our “Revealing Ramadan” series. If you’re the on demand type or simply need a more automated form of listening, we’ve produced a special podcast feed that’s available now. Oh, and a special show too!

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Day 26 - Mary Hope Schwoebel: “My Work Reflects My Beliefs”

Revealing Ramadan: 30 Days, 30 Voices [mp3, 4:18]

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Mary Hope Schwoebel, our 26th voice in this series, was raised Presbyterian in Oxford, Mississippi and later moved to Philadelphia. But, with the social justice movements of the 1960’s, her parents and she grew more secular. While in college, she began reading feminist authors, including a leading Muslim scholar on the veil, and a Somali man who embodied these principles. She later converted and is now a teacher and educator of peace conflict studies in Africa.

Check back on this blog each day or on our Facebook page to hear a new voice in our “Revealing Ramadan” series. If you’re the on demand type or simply need a more automated form of listening, we’ve produced a special podcast feed that’s available now. Oh, and a special show too!

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Day 25 - Miles Davis: “A Father’s Impact”

Revealing Ramadan: 30 Days, 30 Voices [mp3, 5:46]

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Miles DavisOur 25th voice, Miles Davis, grew up in inner-city Philadelphia and is now a professor at Shenandoah University in Leesburg, Virginia. Through the formative influence of his father, Islam provided the framework to escape the drugs and crime of most of his childhood friends.

One of his first Ramadan celebrations also allowed him to see the many colors of Muslims he worshiped with. And now, decades later, his daughter is teaching him new things about faith during Islam’s holiest month.

Check back on this blog each day or on our Facebook page to hear a new voice in our “Revealing Ramadan” series. If you’re the on demand type or simply need a more automated form of listening, we’ve produced a special podcast feed that’s available now. Oh, and a special show too!

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Day 24 - Hilarie Clement: “A First Year Alone in Dubai”

Revealing Ramadan: 30 Days, 30 Voices [mp3, 4:32]

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Hilarie ClementOn this 24th day of Ramadan, a teacher who grew up in Syracuse, New York and now lives in Chicago with her family. Hilarie Clement recalls celebrating one of her first Ramadans while teaching third-graders in Dubai, and how “scared” she was at first and how “horrible” her first day of fasting was. Like most other things in Islam, she says, it takes time to learn how to be a practicing Muslim.

Check back on this blog each day or on our Facebook page to hear a new voice in our “Revealing Ramadan” series. If you’re the on demand type or simply need a more automated form of listening, we’ve produced a special podcast feed that’s available now. Oh, and a special show too!

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Day 23 - Eli Smart: “Ramadan in Dearborn”

Revealing Ramadan: 30 Days, 30 Voices [mp3, 5:13]

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Eli SmartThe 23rd voice in this series, Eli Smart, grew up in California and converted to Islam in his early 20s. Now 37, he lives in Michigan — along with his mother and family — and says that Dearborn’s centralized Muslim community gives him a sense of what it’s like living in a Muslim country during Ramadan.

Check back on this blog each day or on our Facebook page to hear a new voice in our “Revealing Ramadan” series. If you’re the on demand type or simply need a more automated form of listening, we’ve produced a special podcast feed that’s available now. Oh, and a special show too!

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Day 22 - Ilana Alazzeh: “Singing in a Car”

Revealing Ramadan: 30 Days, 30 Voices [mp3, 4:14]

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Ilana AlazzehOur 22nd voice in this series is Ilana Alazzeh, a student at Smith College in Massachusetts. Growing up in California, Texas, and Virginia, she talks about spending Ramadan with a family rich in religious diversity, and driving while singing Jewish and Christmas songs during Ramadan.

Check back on this blog each day or on our Facebook page to hear a new voice in our “Revealing Ramadan” series. If you’re the on demand type or simply need a more automated form of listening, we’ve produced a special podcast feed that’s available now. Oh, and a special show too!

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Day 21 - Anisa Abd el Fattah: “Laughter and Tears”

Revealing Ramadan: 30 Days, 30 Voices [mp3, 6:38]

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Anisa Abd el FattahOur 21st voice on this last day of August is Anisa Abd el Fattah. She is an African-American woman from the Midwest who was raised in a family of Baptist ministers and converted to Islam 20 years ago. She’s the founder of the National Association of Muslim American Women, and tells two Ramadan stories about an iftar faux pas and the beautiful recitation of her 7-year-old son.

Check back on this blog each day or on our Facebook page to hear a new voice in our “Revealing Ramadan” series. If you’re the on demand type or simply need a more automated form of listening, we’ve produced a special podcast feed that’s available now. Oh, and a special show too!

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Day 20 - Muna Jondy: “After Faith, It’s Character”

Revealing Ramadan: 30 Days, 30 Voices [mp3, 4:14]

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Muna JondyMuna Jondy is the 20th voice in this series. She’s an immigration attorney who runs her own private practice in Michigan. Muna, who was born in the U.S., is one of nine children of immigrant parents. She says the simplicity of her faith streamlines her life, but that the society around her can make it difficult to raise her children in an Islamic manner — instilling values of kindness, consideration, and community.

Check back on this blog each day or on our Facebook page to hear a new voice in our “Revealing Ramadan” series. If you’re the on demand type or simply need a more automated form of listening, we’ve produced a special podcast feed that’s available now. Oh, and a special show too!

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Day 19 - Hussein Rashid: “The Night of Power, and Imperfection”

Revealing Ramadan: 30 Days, 30 Voices [mp3, 5:23]

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Hussein RashidThe 19th voice in this series is Hussein Rashid, a Nizari Ismaili Muslim who was born and raised in New York City. He recounts one of his favorite vigils of Ramadan, Laylat al-Qadr or The Night of Power — a night in which many Muslims stay up all night in constant prayerm, reading Qur’an, reflecting. On this night, Muslims believe that the Qur’an was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. He also recites one of his favorite passages from the Quran prayed on this night, The Verse of Light.

Hussein currently teaches at Hofstra University in New York and writes for several blogs, including Religion Dispatches.

Check back on this blog each day or on our Facebook page to hear a new voice in our “Revealing Ramadan” series. If you’re the on demand type or simply need a more automated form of listening, we’ve produced a special podcast feed that’s available now. Oh, and a special show too!

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Day 18 - Naazish Yarkhan: “Celebrating Eid in the U.S. and India”

Revealing Ramadan: 30 Days, 30 Voices [mp3, 5:31]

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Naazish YarKhanOur 18th voice is Naazish Yarkhan, a writer and editor who grew up in fairly secular family in Bombay, India and now lives in suburban Chicago. She tells the story of celebrating Eids in her native country then and how much more joyous it is for her now in the United States. Immigrant communities celebrate together, she says, and brings the richness of various traditions and festivities to their adopted home.

Check back on this blog each day or on our Facebook page to hear a new voice in our “Revealing Ramadan” series. If you’re the on demand type or simply need a more automated form of listening, we’ve produced a special podcast feed that’s available now. Oh, and a special show too!

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Day 17 - Reuben Jackson: “Support in Those Beginning Years”

Revealing Ramadan: 30 Days, 30 Voices [mp3, 3:58]

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Reuben JacksonOn this 17th day of Ramadan, Reuben Jackson, an African-American man who was raised Southern Baptist and converted, or “reverted” as he says, to Islam in May 2001. He immersed himself in Islam’s sacred texts and memorized prayers by Yusef Islam (formerly Cat Stevens). His Ramadan reflection tells about the support he received early on from friends at his local mosque in Arlington, Virginia to trainers at his gym.

Check back on this blog each day or on our Facebook page to hear a new voice in our “Revealing Ramadan” series. If you’re the on demand type or simply need a more automated form of listening, we’ve produced a special podcast feed that’s available now. Oh, and a special show too!

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Day 16 - Parisa Popalzai: “Ramadan in Indonesia”

Revealing Ramadan: 30 Days, 30 Voices [mp3, 3:04]

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Parisa PopalzaiParisa Popalzai, an Afghani-American woman who immigrated to California after the Soviets invaded her home country in 1979, is our 16th voice in this series. She is an American Muslim who didn’t grow up with Muslim friends and, in the process, began to lose her religious identity. Her year of studying abroad in the world’s most populous Muslim country gave her a new perspective on the month of Ramadan, and her religious identity.

Check back on this blog each day or on our Facebook page to hear a new voice in our “Revealing Ramadan” series. If you’re the on demand type or simply need a more automated form of listening, we’ve produced a special podcast feed that’s available now. Oh, and a special show too!

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