The Muslim holy month of Ramadan started last week and will culminate with the first sighting of the moon on Eid, which falls this year on Friday, April 21. The month of fasting, which ends with the Eid al-Fitr celebration, is a special time for the nearly 2 billion Muslim people around the world.
Perhaps best known for the fasting that takes place from sunup to sundown and the nightly “iftar,” or evening meals with family and friends, Ramadan is a time for atonement, rejuvenation, reflection and community. Of course, how people observe the month varies according to their cultural background, religious devotion, health and personal preferences.
As an Arab American of Catholic heritage, I can offer these suggestions about being thoughtful toward Muslim friends and colleagues, particularly during Ramadan.
Avoid asking what fasting is like.
Non-Muslims sometimes make inappropriate comments during Ramadan, for example, by asking Muslims how they can go all day without food or water or by telling them that fasting is bad for their health.
Instead, you might ask what they love most about Ramadan or Eid, or about their favorite memories of the holiday. Perhaps reflect on what it would take to break bread with your own family and friends every night for a month.
Adjust schedules, skip sharing snacks.
During Ramadan, consider moving meetings to the morning, when someone who is fasting will have more energy. Hold virtual meetings if possible. When setting deadlines or planning workshops, consider moving those dates to the weeks after Ramadan has ended.
To be thoughtful toward your Muslim colleagues, refrain from setting out snacks in the break room or in meetings, or from eating in front of them.
Create quiet spaces.
Designating a quiet room in the workplace where Muslims can rest, reflect or pray is a thoughtful idea year-round, not just during Ramadan. Non-Muslims will likely use the room, too.
If a co-worker is fasting, then consider joining that person during your break to sit outside and get some fresh air. You can eat your lunch before or afterward.
Add Eid to your calendar.
Though Eid isn’t a national holiday in the United States, it should be treated as one because of its significance for Muslim colleagues. Adding Eid to the calendar can help you remember not to have mandatory meetings or deadlines on or around that date.
While being thoughtful toward Muslim colleagues during Ramadan, communicators can expand their own horizons in the process. You might be pleasantly surprised by what you discover.
Stephanie Abraham is the senior marketing communications specialist at Cal Poly Pomona. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.[Photo credit: gorodenkoff]