Opinion

Corporate America: Stop hurting Muslims by ignoring our holidays

Women listen to a speaker during a prayer service at the Muslim Association of Puget Sound, a mosque in Redmond, Wash., on July 6, 2016, to mark the end of Ramadan and the start of Eid al-Fitr. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

(RNS) — This week, more than 3.45 million Muslims in the United States celebrated Eid al-Fitr, a major festive holiday that closes Ramadan, the month of fasting.

While this year’s Ramadan has had both highs and lows for American Muslims, with everything from interfaith iftars across the country to a ban on travel from several Muslim-majority countries in review at the U.S. Supreme Court, it has certainly been one filled with lessons.

We are being taught to recognize the ways in which our society and its systems overlook the everyday needs of our Muslim communities. This Ramadan, we saw a prime example in the corporate sector.

Last week, it became clear that large corporations like Amazon reportedly will not care for their employees by accommodating their needs at Ramadan. When Muslim Minnesotans protested how their working conditions weren’t modified to accommodate their daily daytime fasting, they weren’t only pushing back against a demanding work environment. They were protesting a corporate giant that never took the time to understand the lived experiences of its employees.

Accommodations for Ramadan and Eid can be made without disrupting business. Having events without food and drink available is a respectful way to recognize Ramadan. Other suggestions: Limit employees’ travel so families can be together for prayers while initiating and breaking the daily fast. Create meditation sessions or offer time to break the fast as a team. This can build compassion and understanding even among those who aren’t Muslim and haven’t been fasting this season.

Why are corporations reluctant to accommodate or even acknowledge Muslim holidays? It’s because of the backlash already experienced by corporations like Best Buy, which ran an ad wishing Muslims a happy Eid, or Lowe’s, which faced so much criticism for advertising during a Muslim television show that it pulled the ads to appease the critics. The corporate default position is to pretend that Muslims and their holidays don’t exist.

Beyond failing to acknowledge the Muslim consumer, corporations often don’t accommodate Muslim employees’ religious needs simply because they don’t take the time to understand or anticipate them. Many Muslims are hesitant to take off time for Eid al-Fitr, for example, because it is not a recognized holiday, and the timing of Eid is often debated because it depends on a lunar sighting.

Just imagine having to work during Christmas without any festivities or time among family. You probably wouldn’t feel valued by your company.

The first step to making accommodations for any group of people involves understanding its needs, but workplace accommodations for the American Muslim community are few and far between. Most U.S. workplaces don’t even acknowledge Eid or Ramadan, and that’s reflective of how many Americans treat our holy month in general.

But this Ramadan also provided us with hope that Muslim communities can be seen, heard and ultimately included.

This spring, we witnessed the first major corporation stepping up to recognize the holiest month of the year. Retailer Party City created a special line of Ramadan and Eid decorations. This step acknowledges the existence of Muslims being a part of the fabric of our country. After all, we make up 1.1 percent of America’s population, and that figure is only growing.

We need more than public policies. We need to celebrate our differences while appreciating our similarities in the private sector. We need to assert the fact that Muslims are just as much a part of society as other groups and make space for that accordingly across our institutions. In this, we will stop making Muslims feel separated and ashamed of their religious identities. Then we will begin to have a truly inclusive society.

(Tasmiha Khan is pursuing a Master of Arts in social impact at Claremont Lincoln University and is a Germanacos Interfaith Youth Core fellow. The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)

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Tasmiha Khan

16 Comments

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  • I agree with most of this, but banning food during office events probably will not go over well. “We can’t have food at the meeting because of the Muslims.” It would be like saying the holiday office party can’t be at a restaurant that serves alcohol. This is very different than, for example, having the party at a place that has many halal/kosher-friendly food options. And of course, if there is a major office event, you could always look at holding it not during Ramadan at all.

  • “Just imagine having to work during Christmas without any festivities or time among family. ” It happens in Gulf Muslim countries.

    I’m not sure why anyone should accommodate another’s religious practices? We should be respectful of each other, surely. If you choose to pray five times a day, that’s fine. Do it when you are able. Don’t ask others to rearrange the work schedule to suit you. If you wish to fast one month a year, fine. But don’t ask others to change their eating habits and behaviors to accommodate you.

  • “weren’t modified to accommodate their daily daytime fasting”

    What accommodations need to be made for someone to not eat at certain times of the day?

    “Having events without food and drink available is a respectful way to recognize Ramadan.”

    So just because Muslims can’t eat at certain times everyone else has to miss out? That’s bullshit. If there is food and drinks available at a company event and someone’s religion doesn’t allow them to eat the food the solution is simple. DON’T EAT THE FOOD.

  • The permanent solution- as with all religions, put the kibosh on Islam: Specifics,

    From the studies of Armstrong, Rushdie, Hirsi Ali, Richardson and Bayhaqi————–

    The Five Steps To Deprogram 1400 Years of Islamic Myths:

    ( –The Steps take less than two minutes to finish- simply amazing, two minutes to bring peace and rationality to over one billion lost souls- Priceless!!!)

    Are you ready?

    Using “The 77 Branches of Islamic “faith” a collection compiled by Imam Bayhaqi as a starting point. In it, he explains the essential virtues that reflect true “faith” (iman) through related Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings.” i.e. a nice summary of the Koran and Islamic beliefs.

    The First Five of the 77 Branches:

    “1. Belief in Allah”

    aka as God, Yahweh, Zeus, Jehovah, Mother Nature, etc. should be added to your self-cleansing neurons.

    “2. To believe that everything other than Allah was non-existent. Thereafter, Allah Most High created these things and subsequently they came into existence.”

    Evolution and the Big Bang or the “Gib Gnab” (when the universe starts to recycle) are more plausible and the “akas” for Allah should be included if you continue to be a “creationist”.

    “3. To believe in the existence of angels.”

    A major item for neuron cleansing. Angels/devils are the mythical creations of ancient civilizations, e.g. Hittites, to explain/define natural events, contacts with their gods, big birds, sudden winds, protectors during the dark nights, etc. No “pretty/ugly wingy thingies” ever visited or talked to Mohammed, Jesus, Mary or Joseph or Joe Smith. Today we would classify angels as fairies and “tinker bells”. Modern devils are classified as the demons of the demented.

    “4. To believe that all the heavenly books that were sent to the different prophets are true. However, apart from the Quran, all other books are not valid anymore.”

    Another major item to delete. There are no books written in the spirit state of Heaven (if there is one) just as there are no angels to write/publish/distribute them. The Koran, OT, NT etc. are simply books written by humans for humans.

    Prophets were invented by ancient scribes typically to keep the uneducated masses in line. Today we call them fortune tellers.

    Prophecies are also invalidated by the natural gifts of Free Will and Future.

    “5. To believe that all the prophets are true. However, we are commanded to follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) alone.”

    Mohammed spent thirty days “fasting” (the Ramadan legend) in a hot cave before his first contact with Allah aka God etc. via a “pretty wingy thingy”. Common sense demands a neuron deletion of #5. #5 is also the major source of Islamic violence i.e. turning Mohammed’s “fast, hunger-driven” hallucinations into horrible reality for unbelievers.

    Walk these Five Steps and we guarantee a complete recovery from your Islamic ways!!!!

    Unfortunately, there are not many Muslim commentators/readers on this blog so the “two-minute” cure is not getting to those who need it. If you have a Muslim friend, send him a copy and help save the world.

    Analogous steps are available at your request for deprogramming the myths of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Paganism..

  • Do you bitch when those of the Jewish faith request that beef and dairy not occupy the same table at events? Do you bitch when there are no pork dishes at all?
    All that those of different faiths request is an open dialogue to discuss how to reach mutual accommodations. Even the military makes an effort unless safety and mission goals prevent it. I’ve watched it at every duty station. I resented having no other option at chow but some foul selling and tasting fish dish on Fridays.

  • Asking that two foods be on different tables, while totally ridiculous, is way different than saying a certain food can’t be served or no food can be served at all.

    The fact is I don’t give a shit about people’s religion. If they want to have their beliefs fine but they don’t get to use those beliefs to impact my life in any way.

    This is no different than someone going on a diet and deciding not to eat donuts and then telling offers that donuts can’t eat donuts and that donuts can’t even be served near them.

  • 3 million Muslims in America is about 1% of the overall population. I suspect that in areas like Hamtramck, Flint, and Dearborn that businesses bend over backwards to appease the Muslim majorities in those areas. would love to know how Muslim majority countries treat major Jewish and Christian holidays

  • “Do you bitch when there are no pork dishes at all?” typically what happens is that kosher meals are made available to those who practice kosher. just like in the past Catholics were accommodated with fish dishes on Fridays, but others were not forced to eat kosher or eat fish.
    The McDonalds fish sandwich was created by a franchise owner whose store was in a predominantly Catholic neighbor. His sales dropped precipitiously on Fridays so he created the fish sandwich. No body demanded that he do that because they knew McDonald’s was a hamburger place.

    “I resented having no other option at chow but some foul selling and tasting fish dish on Fridays.” blame the cook not the religion for the foul smell and taste

  • “look at holding it not during Ramadan at all.” only problem is that Ramadan unlike Christmas and Easter does not occur at the same time each year. it rotates through the calendar year because its date is determined by the lunar cycle not the solar cycle. businesses would have to know what dates it takes place every year, and when it actually starts is determined by they sighting of the new moon

  • if you want to fast during this time of the year then that is your business. not sure why a business should accommodate you. During Lent many Catholics forsake something for the 40 days, candy, alcohol, caffeine just to name 3 items, but you don’t see Catholics demanding that a business put away the coffee maker or not allow alcohol at company functions during that time of the year or requesting that no candy be allowed in the building

  • “Accommodations for Ramadan and Eid can be made without disrupting
    business. Having events without food and drink available is a respectful
    way to recognize Ramadan”
    so then if there are one or two Muslims in the business then all employees must be subjected to their requirements? sorry no. seeing food at a morning meeting is a temptation we all face temptations, but how you handle the temptation is your problem, it is not up to the business to force others to foregore something just because you can’t

  • I don’t get why food’s such an integral part of everything, anyway. That can cause severe problems for folks with allergies, too. Some reactions can be had just by the trace amounts that enter the air, or that aren’t cleaned properly from a countertop.

  • I can’t speak for Muslim-majority countries, but I ran into an Arab convenience store owner in northern Israel one Passover who went out of his way to steer me toward his selection of kosher for Passover foods. In my experience, making $ tends to outweigh petty religious disputes.

  • The general expected start and end times of Ramadan are known years in advance. Jewish holidays are also determined by the lunar calendar (in fairness, unlike Ramadan, they are always the same general season of the year) and companies have been able to figure it out.

  • Muslims, stop hurting non-Muslims because we ignore your holidays. Muslims, stop hurting non-Muslims by eliminating the dictates of your book of horror, the Koran which dictates maiming or killing all non-believers!!!!

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