First Person | When Ramadan starts each year; do you feel like you are leaving your non-Muslim friends out of the celebrations? On the other hand, do you feel like there are few informal social opportunities to participate in Islam as a regular non-Muslim American? Over the years, my isolation as a Muslim in a small town in Kentucky led me to start openly celebrating Ramadan with my non-Muslim friends.
While a Ramadan Hoot and Holler is not a traditional Islamic party, it does help non-Muslims share in one of the Five Pillars of Islam that every religion seems to agree with: giving freely of charity just to please God, or “infaq sadaqah and zakat.” Over the years, my party has had positive community results I would not have experienced if I had kept Ramadan to myself.
What kind of Muslim has a Ramadan Hoot and Holler?
For the record, I am not a conservative or traditional Muslim, but that does not mean I am less devout. Most people who observe Ramadan are born Muslim and learn about Islam from their families. Other people celebrating Ramadan this year are converts to the religion. However, I am not your typical Muslim because I was born as a Muslim and then was separated from my Muslim family in childhood.
For this reason, the way I observe Ramadan is different from the way other Muslims celebrate. This was bound to happen because I grew up in Kentucky and never lived near a mosque or other Muslims. Eventually, I started a party tradition called the Ramadan Hoot and Holler to include my non-Muslim friends.
Why I call it a Ramadan Hoot and Holler
In Appalachian culture, there is a common comedic theater routine called a hoot and holler. However, as it turned out, this was also an intercom communication device or “party line” telephone before the walkie talkie was in common use. Basically, it was an internal phone line used in large buildings to alert isolated areas of the building. In other words, a Ramadan Hoot and Holler is dedicated to alerting everyone in my non-Muslim community that it is time to celebrate Ramadan.
The real point of a Ramadan Hoot and Holler is zakat and sadaqah
I had my first infaq Ramadan Hoot and Holler at age 19 in order to collect zakat and give sadaqah to the poor. That same year, the momentum of the party led to conversations with friends about Ramadan’s tenet of giving to those in need. Later, we were inspired to start a Food Not Bombs in our Kentucky community. In other words, a Hoot and Holler may seem like a strange way to celebrate Ramadan, but the community results for lonely Muslims in isolated places are extraordinary.