Thursday, September 13, 2007


Today marks the beginning of Ramadan (or Ramadhan, if you prefer). During the month of Ramadan, Muslims must fast from dawn until dusk. When I say fast, I mean not only from eating, but also from drinking (anything, even water), sex, sarcasm, gossiping, etc. Since I'm no expert on the subject, read this article from Wikipedia. It explains things much better than I could. If I tried to explain it to you, I would basically just recite the article, and plagiarism is bad, 'n kay?

All around town, people are gearing up for Ramadan. Advertisements are everywhere for Ramadan buffets. Breaking fast is an event, and hotels are game to cash in with lavish buffets. Rush hour starts earlier as well. Many offices shorten their hours during Ramadan - some only offer this to Muslims, and other offices offer it to all employees. For example, our office in Dubai will end the workday at 2pm. Again, I totally agree with this. Dubai traffic is horrendous anyway, but to adding a bunch of hungry, low blood sugar, not having eaten all day drivers to the mix just doesn't make a lot of sense from a safety standpoint. For those offices who offer it to only Muslims, I am wondering in the back of my mind - how come I didn't get to leave work early during Christmas in the US? I could have gotten a ton of Christmas shopping done! Then again, I hardly think that fasting all day is akin to needing to go to Toys R Us to pick up some last minute gifts. Although, going to Toys R Us at 6pm during the two weeks preceding Christmas does have its own kind of sacrifice - that being, my sanity. But I digress...

Companies will often hold events for breaking fast. Nice idea, really. I've heard though, that some companies make these events mandatory for everyone in the office, regardless of their religious beliefs.


This doesn't fly for me. "Participating in social events" isn't part of many job descriptions out there. Neither is "participating in religious events". And I think it would be a stretch to include it as part of the "other projects as assigned" on said descriptions. As an HR person, I'm surprised at this. I enjoy social gatherings as much as the next person, but I'd never force anyone to attend. To me, this is akin to requiring employees to attend a Christmas party (in the US, you can't even call it a Christmas party anymore - it's a Holiday party, for fear of offending any particular religion), or requiring them to dye Easter eggs for the local kids to hunt. A social event, yes, but one grounded in a particular religious belief. While Malaysia is predominantly Muslim, religious freedom is an important part of Malaysia as well.

So I'm left scratching my head on that one.


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