RALEIGH – If you want to be more inclusive within your community or organization, here are a few quick, specific suggestions you could implement in your workplace:
Muslims must pray five times per day during certain windows of time. This means that during any shift, there is likely a need for your Muslim colleague or employee to pray. Consider creating a space for prayer. It does not have to be a large amount of space and it doesn’t have to be only for one use. Even a lockable office would do. HQ’s Wellness rooms are primarily for new moms, but are also available for members who practice prayer or meditation during the work day.
It’s no secret that some of our national holidays (the days you typically have off of work) in the US overlap with Christian holidays, so for most people, this is convenient time off. (No, I am not declaring a war on Christmas or saying you should cancel Easter). I’m simply suggesting that in addition to national holidays, you can offer floating or flex days to all of your employees of all faith backgrounds to use them as they choose. So that way, people of other faiths enjoy their respective holidays as fully as possible.
Most Muslims follow a “Halal” diet (an Arabic word meaning lawful or permitted). Islam permits most foods – the notable exceptions being alcohol and pork. Like the Jewish tradition of kosher, the Halal diet requires meat to be prepared a specific way, and these days Halal meat options are readily available in grocery stores across the country. So when you are ordering food for that company picnic, consider exploring Halal food sources or provide some vegetarian options to be safe. Non-alcoholic options at work events would be considerate as well.
Most Muslims fast during Ramadan, meaning that they do not drink or eat anything during from dawn to sunset. So if you notice your Muslim friends getting a little hungry in May (Ramadan follows the Islamic lunar calendar, and for the next few years, it will fall around May but will eventually shift back toward April and March), just show some compassion and understanding. You don’t have to totally understand why someone would not eat or drink for 16 hours (I struggle with going 2 hours!) but you can certainly show respect and empathy.
Contact & Personal Space
You may find that Muslim colleagues or employees are less forthcoming in physical interactions with people of opposite genders. Interaction greater than a handshake may be too much (but I would go ahead and argue that that should be the standard in most work environments, so if you have issues with this one you may need to revisit your HR policies). And listen, you do not have to go out of your way to avoid making contact with someone, and if you did go in for that hug on accident, most Muslims would not be offended.
Ask questions & don’t pretend there are not differences
It is really okay to ask about differences. Muslims welcome the questions and discussions.
It’s also okay to acknowledge that there are differences in the room. Equity is not pretending that people are the same, but acknowledging differences and treating others with respect.
Respect w/o understanding
This is a tough one to genuinely carry out, even for those of us who are open to cultural differences and norms. You don’t have to understand WHY someone is doing something. As long as it is not harming others, you just have to respect them.