To celebrate the end of Ramadan, I made my way to one of the few local coffee shops in my hometown of Sugar Land, Texas. While I was ordering my drink, I couldn’t help but notice the front page of the Houston Chronicle, the city’s largest newspaper on display.
It featured a photograph of a dim-lit and somber pre-teen wearing the hijab (the Islamic headscarf) with the headline reading, “After reflection, a celebration.”
It’s hard not to be a little offended by the laziness of the photo editor. Perhaps the photographer missed the ritual hugs, the laughter, the jaw-dropping diversity, or the thousands of kids running around the Reliant Center. Any of those might have done a better job in illustrating “celebration.”
But I don’t buy it.
Photo editors have consistently dismissed the richness of the Muslim experience and simplified it three overused visual clichés: burkas, protests, and men praying with their butts in the air. Ironically, the latter was the smaller photo below on that front page.
I would hate to call our latest crowdsourced story project, 30Days/Ramadan
, a reaction to this pigeonholing. It’s more about Muslim communities around the world taking ownership over their stories.
We (Musa Syeed, an award-winning independent filmmaker, and myself) weaved together user-generated content from Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr tagged with #30days or #ramadan.
The result is a fascinating and intimate portrait of the homes, mosques, and lives of Muslims around the world, joined by the month in fasting, prayer, and family gatherings.
We shied away from the glossiness of professional cameras. There is an emotional rawness in mobile photography that immediately draws us into hands and eyes of the photographer.
And now that the project is in its last hours, I wanted to share some of my favorite moments from all that we have curated in these last 30 days.
Day 30: WASHINGTON, DC - Photographer Ridwan Adhami brings in Eid, a holiday marking the end of Ramadan, by putting on a fireworks show for his kids.
DAY 10: MALDIVES - A political rally for a candidate running in the Presidential elections this September 7th. (@Inaseer/Instagram)
DAY 5: SREBRENICA, BOSNIA - 18 years after the Srebrenica massacre, newly identified victims are laid to rest at a memorial service. (@BUSRAYGT/Instagram)
DAY 22: SARATOV, RUSSIA - A bubble show for the children. Taken by one of our favorite contributors this year, the local figurehead of their community. (@BIBARSOV, Instagram).
Day 18: LAHORE, PAKISTAN - A young woman dashes through the halls of Badshahi Mosque, one of the largest and frequented mosques in South Asia. (@UMARALI, Instagram)
LAGOS, NIGERIA - Toyosi poses for a portrait in her gown.
Day 20: FORT WORTH, TX - “Side Entrance” is a sobering meditation on the wide range of women prayer spaces in mosques around the world, from the non-existent to the beautiful. Most photos submitted are taken by women and give a glimpse into a world that many Muslims would rather not talk about. (Photo taken by Ala Ahmed, visit Sideentrance.tumblr.com)
Day 26: MECCA, SAUDI ARABIA - Though it isn’t the annual Hajj season, the Prophetic tradition encourages Muslims to make the journey to Mecca and breakfast amongst other pilgrims.
DAY 12: SUDAN - @SUDANESE_YA_ZOOL is a prolific Instagram photographer who takes dignified portraits of people in Sudan. (@SUDANESE_YA_ZOOL/Instagram). NOTE: I’ve tried to get context on this awesome photo, but haven’t received a response yet.
MALE CITY, MALDIVES - By the coast. The amateur photographer, @MUAZIUM, champions the quiet moments.
Day 25: MUMBAI, INDIA - Mohammad Ali Road, hailed as the food street that never sleeps is the heart of all the Ramadan late night socializing. We have curated the most photos from this one road.
We sometimes spend days trying to get the story behind the photos. Most of the time, we are able to get in touch and find the story. Seldom do we feature a photo without understanding the context. Though we love this photo, we don't know much about it.
13. OUDJA, MORROCCO - A photographer takes a photo of her sister on the last day of Ramadan.