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					Muslims, Ramadan and the Workplace - a Guide for HR
The Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins next week. Millions of people
from Morocco to Malaysia will fast everyday from sunrise to sunset for 30
days. Among these will be significant numbers of Muslims working in
offices in Europe and North America where Ramadan slips past unnoticed.
This lack of awareness can and does cause inconvenience, stress and
unhappiness to practicing Muslims in the workplace. Kwintessential, a
leading cross cultural communication training provider, has released a
free guide for employers with Muslim staff to help them better understand
the month and what it means to Islam’s adherents.
Depending on the sighting of the moon, the Islamic world will once again
begin their annual exercise in spiritual and physical cleansing through
fasting and other religious exercises next week. In countries such as
Saudi Arabia, Iran and Indonesia where the majority of the population
will be fasting, the social cycle changes to accommodate people’s needs.
Work may start later due to people praying late into the night, it will
certainly finish earlier to allow people to prepare for iftar (breaking
of the fast) and the general pace of life drops down a couple of gears,
especially for the important last 10 nights.
However, in Europe and North America the pace of life continues as
normal. Although many Muslims will be going through the same rigours as
people in Syria or Singapore, Ramadan can be that little bit tougher.
This is mainly down to the lack of cultural awareness within businesses
nowadays. Although people may know who a Muslim is they may not
appreciate what a Muslim does. Unawareness of aspects of the religion
such as food & drink, interaction between genders, moral obligations,
prayers and holidays is widespread.
As a result there are always stories of Muslims being invited to business
lunches, not being provided with time or space to break their fasts at
sunset or expected to work on the Eid holiday following Ramadan.
“We know of Muslims working in organisations that had no idea what
Ramadan was and what it entails. Stories include buffets being set up
next to someone’s desk at work who was fasting, a manager insisting on a
Muslim colleague attending a working lunch and adequate time not being
given at the time to break the fast to drink and eat properly,” explains
Kwintessential’s Managing Director, Neil Payne.
Respecting cultural diversity in the workplace is simply best practice.
If staff feel that they are being taken care of and understood on a
personal level, a business will experience greater retention, morale and
ultimately productivity.
In order to provide businesses with access to timely cultural knowledge
on Muslims, Islam and the month of Ramadan, Kwintessential have released
a free downloadable file that offers employers a summary of the main
issues. These include looking at what Ramadan is, what it means to
Muslims, the impact it has on their daily lives for a month and how in
turn this impacts their working lives.
“The future is culturally diverse and if we are all to have a successful
future, then cultural awareness is critical,” adds Payne.
The invaluable guide is available at
Neil Payne is Managing Director and Middle East trainer at the London
based consultancy Kwintessential. For more information on their services
please visit Intercultural Communication. The company provide cultural
awareness training, information and resources as well as other services
such as translation.