This month is Pride month in many places, so I’m doing a series on Allyship using the acronym ROAR (recognize privilege, open to learning, act, recognize diversity).
Because LBGTQ-identified people come from all walks of life, I’m starting the series by talking about Ramadan – and how you can be an ally for those observing the holy month. The broad-strokes of LGBTQ allyship will start next week, but this week we’re looking at it in a Ramadan-specific context.
Highlighting Ramadan is an example of the last R – recognize diversity. It may be Pride month for people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, or queer, but it’s also Ramadan. So LGBTQ allyship may need to look different this month for LGBTQ people who are Muslim and who are observing Ramadan.
Open to Learning:
First things first, a brief overview about Ramadan.
Ramadan started last Friday May 26th at sunset, and will continue until June 24th. Those dates may shift slightly, depending on where you are in the world. Ramadan is a month-long observance during the 9th month of the Islamic calendar – which is lunar (therefore the dates for Ramadan change yearly, for those of us using a Gregorian calendar). The ninth month in the Islamic calendar is when Muslims believe the Qur’an was revealed to the prophet Mohammed. It is a month of prayer, introspection, and religious devotion – which includes five daily prayers and fasting.
So – why is it important for workplaces to be aware of what Ramadan is all about? What do you need to consider?
One of the major reasons is that during Ramadan Muslims cannot eat or drink between sunrise and sunset. That may not sound so bad, until you consider the actual times involved. For example, in Toronto, Canada that means eating and finishing breakfast before around 5:30am and waiting until after around 8:50pm to eat again. That’s about 15.5 hours without food or water. If you live in other parts of the country (like Saskatchewan, for example) or continent, breakfast is even earlier. Add the heat if the outside temperature rises, and it makes for a very long day.
Another reason – there is a prayer schedule – 5 a day. Depending on a person’s work schedule, one or more of those could fall during the work day. (Here, for example, is the schedule for Toronto).
Being an ally means taking action. It’s not an identity as much as a verb. So knowing about Ramadan is one thing, but using that knowledge to inform your actions and support is where the rubber hits the road. Here are some things to consider as part of creating and supporting an inclusive workplace during Ramadan. They are ideas meant to get you thinking and talking.
- If employees are fasting, energy levels are highest in the morning: consider scheduling meetings and other important events earlier in the day
- If you don’t already have a prayer room or a quiet room, consider creating one for this month so daily prayers can be observed in privacy
- Social events? If you want everyone to participate, this isn’t the month to host one! If there is an important client meeting that can’t be moved and involves food or drink, and an involved employee is Muslim, have a conversation with them first to see what they think and need.
- Is there somewhere else Muslim employees can gather during their lunchtime instead of sitting in the lunch room? Yes, people may choose to stay at their desk or go outside if it’s a nice day – but wouldn’t it be nice to have an option of a food-free place to go inside?
- If work is physical, perhaps there are other duties someone who is observing Ramadan can perform this month?
The best way to be an ally to anyone is to talk to that person/that community about what they need. So don’t just take this list at face value and implement it. Ask your Muslim friends or colleagues if they would be open to having a conversation about Ramadan and the impact on their workday. Use it as an opportunity to learn more about each other, learn about their needs, and learn how to be supportive of the people you work with. And remember – not everyone will need the same thing!
Privilege can be hard to see when we have it, and super easy to catch when we don’t.
For those who live in a country where being Muslim is part of the dominant group (read – the group with social power) then it’s possible that business and commerce might operate differently this month. But for those of us who don’t, Ramadan is not likely to be taken into consideration when planning events, meetings, etc. It certainly hasn’t impacted the Pride calendar here in Toronto, for example.
But when we recognize privilege – that our access is easier, that systems and structures are created with certain realities and needs in mind – we can also begin to recognize the impact on those whose identities and needs haven’t been considered. And then advocate for change.
Join me for Allyship part 2 next week when we dive further into privilege.
Want a challenge? Sign up for my weekly Inclusion Insight – same topic, linked to the weekly blog post, but with a challenge to help you see more.