Because Fasting All Day Isn’t Hard Enough Already

, , , , | Learning | August 28, 2017

(I am in eighth grade. My family is Muslim and it is the month of Ramadan, one where we have to fast between dawn and sunset. My last meal was the Suhur [predawn meal] and I’m on my last class, which is gym. By this point I’m very hungry, and don’t have the most energy for gym. My teacher stops me after class one day.)

Teacher: [My Name], I notice you’ve been slowing down for the past week or so in running laps. You all right?”

Me: “Yeah, I’m fine. Just haven’t been eating much during the daytime.

Teacher: “Why’s that?”

Me: “My family is fasting right now for Ramadan, so I can’t really eat anything after 5:30ish.”

Teacher: “Well, no wonder you’re going so slow. How much longer does this Ramadan thing last? Until then you can sit on the bench, all right?”

(I do as I am told for the next week. The Monday of the fourth week of Ramadan, I get called into the principal’s office. When I get there, there is another teacher I’ve never had, the school nurse, and someone that I will later learn is from Child Protective Services.)

Principal: “Do you know why you’re here today, [My Name]?”

Me: “No, what did I do?”

Nurse: “You haven’t done anything wrong. We’re here to talk to you about your eating disorder.”

Me: “Disorder? I don’t have any eating disorder.”

Principal: “Now, [My Name], you don’t need to lie to us. Your teacher reported that you haven’t been eating at all, and that your family is encouraging this dangerous behavior. We called in someone who can make sure you’re well taken care of.”

(At this point I’m thoroughly confused, and think that my gym teacher has said something to them.)

Me: “I don’t have an eating disorder or anything like that! I just haven’t been eating during the day for Ramadan.”

CPS Worker: “Wait, did you say Ramadan?”

Teacher #2: “Don’t be silly, that’s just a made up thing that people use to not feed their family.”

CPS Worker: “Er, Principal [Name], may I have a word with you for just a moment?”

(At this point, the adults talk among themselves for a few minutes. After hushed arguing, the nurse comes back to talk to me.)

Nurse: “Go on back to class. There’s just been a misunderstanding is all.”

(I went back to class even more confused than before. It wasn’t until a couple of years later, when my own little brother was in that middle school, that I found out what happened. Apparently, my gym teacher was making idle talk with some other teachers, and the teacher I didn’t know said something to the principal. I also found out that he didn’t believe that Islam was a real religion, and didn’t bother to include the holiday in his story to the principal. My brother later told me that the teacher always glared at him, due to our last name.)

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