Muslim Woman MailShe was a new employee at an established company. She was excited about this new adventure in her life and the contributions she could make. But, right away, she felt that she was treated as an outsider. While others took cigarette and snack breaks, no one understood her need for a quiet place to pray for a few minutes each day. She heard disparaging remarks about her hijab head covering. At company dinners, sometimes pork was the only choice for an entrée. She was chided for not drinking at client gatherings. “Oh, come on. A little won’t hurt.” Her department’s “reward” for the successful completion of a project was to throw a beach party where it was assumed that everyone would be comfortable in bathing suits.

At every turn, she felt either invisible or out of place. Guess how long she stayed at that company?

Sunday evening, June 5th, begins the holy month of Ramadan for Muslims. It is a time when organizations of all kind can take a moment to reflect on how welcomed their Muslim employees, students and community members might feel.

If you are Muslim, seek allies who can advocate with you and on your behalf. If you are an ally here are some things you can do to make your workplace more inclusive:

  • Learn about the meaning of Ramadan as well as other faith traditions. This year, Ramadan starts Sunday evening, June 5th and lasts until the evening of July 5th. Ramadan occurs 11 days earlier than the year before because it follows the lunar calendar.
  • Practicing Muslims who are physically able fast (no food or drink) from sunup to sunset each day of Ramadan. If your team is working long hours, be sensitive to your co-workers need to break the fast at sundown.
  • Be open to flexible hours for your employees who are Muslim. Some may want to start earlier and work through the lunch hour.
  • Try not to schedule work or social activities that revolve around morning and afternoon meals – client dinners, Lunch ‘n Learn meetings and so forth.
  • Provide a quiet place for employees to take prayer breaks. Ideally, practicing Muslims pray 5 times each day. Many are more determined to complete this practice during this holy month.
  • The close of the holy month is called Eid-ul-Fitr and will be celebrated on July 5th and/or July 6th. Some employees may need this day off to be with their families much like Christians would ask for Christmas off.

Throughout the year, create opportunities for respectful conversations about valuing different religions. Remember people are always a part of the groups to which they belong and individuals. Ask people about their unique needs and what respect sounds and looks like to them.

 

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Susan O’Halloran works with organizations and individuals to create more culturally competent and enjoyable relationships. www.SusanOHalloran.com