How to be effective allies to Muslim colleagues during Ramadan

As the Muslim community observes Ramadan, here's how to make them feel included at work

With over 3 million Muslims in the UK, many will be observing Ramadan across various workplaces; whether you’re operating remotely or in the office, here’s how to be effective allies to your Muslim colleagues.

This year, Ramadan, the month-long religious event for Muslims, began on the evening of April 13 with the first day of fasting on April 14 and is mandatory for all Muslims who are able to fast. The dates change each year due to the Islamic calendar which is based on lunar months.

Muslims that observe Ramadan (Rum-ah-dhaan) must abstain from eating and drinking during daylight hours and smoking, gossiping, arguing, and sexual intercourse. Fasting begins at sunrise (suhoor) and ends at sunset (iftar). Eid-ul-Fitr, a festival of eating and drinking, marks the end of Ramadan.

With Muslims in the workplace observing Ramadan currently, here’s what non-Muslims can do to support them and ensure they still feel included and respected.

1. Don’t hold work meals during the day

If you’re thinking of hosting a work lunch for your team for a job well done or just for bonding, make sure you hold it after daylight hours so your Muslim employees can enjoy a meal and a drink. If you can only hold the event during the day, ensure it’s after Ramadan ends.

2. Don’t make fasting Muslims feel awkward

Muslims who observe Ramadan in the workplace are committed to their religious duty, so if you’re office-based, don’t stigmatise them by avoiding eating or drinking around them. If they are uncomfortable, trust that they’ll avoid areas where employees congregate to eat. The same goes for video calls when operating remotely, don’t feel weird about having your morning coffee during a meeting with fasting colleagues.

3. Ask genuine questions but don’t assume

To show your support for Muslim colleagues, ask them questions about how Ramadan is going for them and how it feels observing it through a pandemic.

It’s important that you don’t assume things about Ramadan, such as that it ‘must be unpleasant’, etc. This could cause offence as many Muslims enjoy Ramadan as it helps them reflect on their lives and be better in society.

Also, don’t question why some Muslims aren’t fasting, as there could be a variety of reasons why; women who are pregnant or menstruating aren’t required to, and neither are those with illnesses nor those who are very young or older. There are other ways Muslims can observe Ramadan, such as giving to charity and praying.

4. Provide accommodations

This includes giving Muslim staff the option to work from home or even scheduling important meetings earlier in the day when they are more likely to have the energy to contribute.

Allowing them to work flexible hours during this time is also a good idea. They could be more productive and feel that the organisation values them and their religious identity. Letting observing staff have some extra days off (without being counted) during this time could also be appreciated.

5. Create a supportive community at work

This could be organising a communal breaking of the fast meal at work after sunset where the entire workforce can get involved. Or you could join a Muslim colleague for iftar at a local community centre to show your support. Zakat is a Muslim wealth tax that’s calculated during Ramadan and is designed to help the poor in society, so you can show your support for this practice by raising money for worthy causes at work.

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