Fasting, food and family: Sarah Malik digs deep into Ramadan

Sarah Malik is a Walkley Award-winning journalist and presenter. She is host and executive producer of the new SBS podcast My Ramadan, which explores Ramadan as experienced by a range of Australian Muslims.

How much of your life has been spent explaining your religion to other people?

Sarah Malik talks about Ramadan.Credit:

So much of it. It’s almost like there’s these two extremes when it comes to Muslims in the media: it’s either really demonising, or it’s very boring and worthy. I felt like there was not really an in-between, something light-hearted that reflected me and my friends and our lives. And people’s complex relationships with things like their faith. You know, some people are very devout and others are just Ramadan Muslims, they’ll connect for that month. I just wanted to be inclusive, because those everyday experiences, those grey experiences, sometimes don’t get room in the middle of those extremes. That to me is what storytelling is about.

Coming to this as an ignorant white Australian of no particular faith, what do you hope that My Ramadan could offer someone like me?

You know, I was thinking a lot about other mainstream holidays, and the conversation around them is so sophisticated, because the coverage is made for and by people who experience it. For example, with Christmas, it’s not just like, oh what do I hang to decorate – there’s stories like how to deal with family over the holidays, what to do if you’re estranged, how to deal with loneliness, those kind of things. And I thought, with Ramadan and Eid and our holidays, we just don’t do that level of sophistication, it’s very much in explainer mode. I felt that was very othering and anthropological, and I thought, being in media myself, I wanted to reflect the complexity and hybridity and the generational shifts that I see in Muslim communities. I hope I’ve done that through the stories and it gives people something more in-depth than what we usually see.

In a sense, are you universalising the experience by doing that? Because not everyone experiences Ramadan, but when you hear about Ramadan from these different perspectives, non-Muslims can find something to relate to in those stories, even though they don’t go through the same specific thing.

Yeah, exactly. Like, I interview a woman who’s a child of divorce and she talks about Eid and how it can be tricky because there are family members getting into fights with each other. I talk to a woman who is a corporate lawyer and was working constantly and asked for accommodation around leaving home early, and didn’t get it, and felt terrified of asking for any kind of accommodation. I think that’s something that a lot of women can relate to, that work-life balance and burnout. I think we’re talking a lot about that post-pandemic, that experience of wanting to have more balance, more room for your personal life and more time for wellbeing and spirituality. Those kind of things I think will resonate with everyone, not just Muslims.

It is still definitely a podcast by and for Muslims, though, isn’t it?

I felt like I wanted to make this for a Muslim audience, and if other people want to enter into that conversation, they can, but it’s not overly catering or overly explaining terms. Just come into this conversation and actually enjoy it, enter into it where you are. That was interesting, trying to figure out who it was for and make it for people who could relate, but also other people can enter from their own perspective.

I can imagine that for many, the experience of being a Muslim in Australia can be a lonely one – especially if you’re not connected with a large community in your own area. So podcasts like this can create that sense of community.

That’s been a huge thing. In one episode I talk to two young women who are part of Gen Z, and they talk about feeling estrangement in so many ways: not only from mainstream society but even within your own community, when you don’t really feel like you belong, or you’re more progressive, or you don’t have those large migrant networks that your parents did. So for that generation, things like Lakemba Markets and social media and podcasts, this kind of coverage means so much because it means they can see themselves reflected in media. It means so much because you feel like my everyday ritual or tradition or experience is not something I have to do, or carry, alone, I can experience it with other people. That’s why I created the podcast myself, because I didn’t have this.

It’s probably a niche that hasn’t really been filled before you came along.

We were thinking, let’s look up Ramadan podcasts to see what we’re up against, see if the name’s been taken. And there was just nothing at all. So it was an interesting position, coming up with something that nobody else has. It’s always been an interesting, unique position in media for me, as well, often being the only brown person or Muslim person in the newsroom. That can have its benefits because you can come up with concepts that relate to new demographics or changing demographics. A large proportion of Muslims in Australia are under 24, and they want to see themselves and their complex lives and their multi-faceted identities reflected. I hope this is part of meeting that challenge.

My Ramadan podcasts are at

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