In a recent interview with Fatima Achouri, author of “The Muslim Employee in France,” Achouri examines how observant French Muslims celebrate Ramadan while continuing to work. Achouri discusses Ramadan’s importance as one of the Five Pillars of Islam, and as an obligation for all believers who are physically capable of observing the holiday. Ramadan “highlights the concept of patience and endurance against life’s struggles,” says Achouri. She describes it as an “inner experience,” which explains why many Muslims prefer to not speak about their fasting throughout the month.
When discussing Ramadan’s position in the workplace, Achouri says that “the right to work dictates that it is completely possible to practice one’s religion, it is a fundamental right…for that matter there is a limitation to this freedom that can be put into effect.” For example, during Ramadan a worker cannot “rely on fasting to justify an error [at work].” Furthermore, if the employee feels that his own health and the safety of others is in danger he is allowed to break the fast and make up the days at a later time.
This year Ramadan begins at the end of June and spans much of July– a time when many Frenchmen are on vacation. When asked if the timing would cause observers to use their vacation time during Ramadan, Achouri answered that most prefer to work. Many employees will, however, take the day off for Eid to celebrate the end of Ramadan. While workers may ask for time off it is not guaranteed–especially in workplaces with a large number of Muslim employees.
Businesses are responsible for their workers’ wellbeing and their health and security. This year’s fasting period is particularly long and can last for eighteen hours. The situations for Muslim employees in France can vary depending on the type of establishment. Some businesses are more likely than others to accommodate those who fast. They may allow observant employees to take breaks during the day, or give them tasks that require less physical exertion. Such policies are often in the organization’s own interest, as they promote workers’ health and efficiency and encourage “harmony” in the workplace. Achouri encourages Muslim employees, especially those whose jobs entail physical labor, to speak with their managers in order to find solutions that work for everyone.
From Cagliari, an appeal for peace: The Muslim community of the Sardinian capital reacts to the appeal of the Pope. September 7th will be a day of fasting and prayer against war in the Middle East. This was announced by the spokesman of the Muslim community of Cagliari, Sulaiman Hijazi, and the president of the Province of Cagliari, Angela Quaquero.
“In Cagliari, after the appeal that Pope Francis addressed to all people of good will against war in the Middle East, the Muslim Community of Cagliari decided to join with a day of fasting to be held on September 7” says Sulaiman Hijazi. This is a concrete step showing intercultural goodwill.
A video portraying how the Ramadan is lived in Spain; Muslim leaders and others share their thoughts on all aspects from the sacred month: fasting; weather circumstances; integration and the meaning of the celebration.
August 8, 2013
Despite the bad weather this morning, 700 Muslims “invaded” the sports field on via dell’Amicizia in Legnano to celebrate the end of Ramadan.
The event, for the second year in a row, was organized by the Cultural Italian-Arab Association of Legnano. The association was founded in 2005 and is chaired by Mustapha Lhamid.
Men, women and children, arrived around 8 o’clock in the morning; they gathered on the green to celebrate Eid Al-Iftar, the party that for the end of the period of reflection which takes place during the ninth month of the year, according to the Islamic lunar calendar.
The rain did not stop people from praying. In fact, all those present were positioned facing Mecca, creating a real human “carpet.”
The second most important holiday of the Islamic religion was meticulously planned: “At dawn they placed carpets and loudspeakers” says Lhamid “this was done in order to avoid discomfort similar to how we operate in the cultural center, also some volunteers pointed people to where to park their cars. After the speech of Imam and the time of prayer, came the time to celebrate all together, to share.”
Ramadan is a time of fasting and prayer: “The event taking place today is the celebration of the end of Ramadan, one of the two most important holidays in the Islamic religion” says the Lhamid. “Today, as last year, we welcome many of the faithful who are coming from neighboring countries. Until now we have never had any problems in our city. Ours is an association open to dialogue: in fact, we have also collaborated with many other Italian organizations. Multiculturalism is among our goals and that is why we are ready to get involved and participate in events organized by other local associations.”
August 8, 2013
Several thousand Muslims gathered in the Arena Civica in Milan, from 8 in the morning to pray during Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan. The rain did not deter the faithful and they said the traditional prayer of the day. Ramadan is a time of fasting and a time to support the purification of the soul and body. Imam Shaykh Riyadh Bustanji lead the celebration. Women prayed under a gazebo, decorated for the occasion. The City of Milan was represented by the Councillor for Culture, Francesco Cappelli.
August 2, 2013
“As you all know, when the Cardinals elected me as the Bishop of Rome and Universal Pastor of the Catholic Church, I chose the name of Francis, a very famous saint, deeply loved by God and every human being, to the point of being called the ‘universal brother.’” The Pope wrote in a message “to Muslims around the world” on the occasion of “the conclusion of the month of Ramadan, chiefly devoted to fasting, prayer and almsgiving.” In the text, the Pope follows a tradition that, on this occasion, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue sends a goodwill message, accompanied by a theme offered for joint consideration. “This year, the first of my Pontificate, I decided to send this message to you, dear friends, as an expression of esteem and friendship for all Muslims, especially those who are religious leaders.”
This is the story of two Washington Iftar dinners.
First, the Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren invited Muslim leaders to a diplomatic Iftardinner last week and Imam Antepli of Duke University wondered aloud if the event was meaningful. And then the Obama administration invited Muslim leaders to the White House Iftar dinner and Omid Saifi, the Islamic studies professor from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, called to boycott it.
It’s obvious: We, the American Muslims are struggling to identify the right posture: Boycott, and you sever a diplomatic tie; attend, and you are seen as endorsing a policy.
While I empathize with the demands laid out by Professor Saifi -I believe the Obama administration should abandon overseas drone attacks, halt nationwide racial and religious profiling, and release select Guantanamo Bay prisoners – I knew the boycott will fail to achieve anything beyond creating a social media ripple.
Obama celebrates Islamic holy month at White House with Ramadan dinner
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama saluted Muslim Americans on Thursday for their contributions in helping build the nation as business entrepreneurs, technology innovators and pioneers in medicine.
Obama spoke at a White House dinner he hosted to celebrate the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The meal, or iftar, breaks the day of fasting when Muslim families and communities eat together after sunset.
Obama said Ramadan is “a time of reflection, a chance to demonstrate ones devotion to God through prayer and through fasting, but it’s also a time for family and friends to come together.”
He said it is a White House tradition to celebrate sacred days of various faiths, adding that these occasions celebrate diversity that defines the country and reaffirms the freedom to worship.
A recent Pew Research Center survey of more than 38,000 Muslims around the world shows widespread observance of Ramadan. In the 39 countries and territories surveyed, a median of 93% say they fast during the holy month. Fasting is the second-most observed of the Five Pillars, behind only belief in God and the Prophet Muhammad (median of 97%).
By comparison, a median of 77% of Muslims in those 39 countries say they give zakat (an annual donation of a portion of one’s wealth to the needy). And a global median of 63% of Muslims surveyed say they perform five salat (prayers) a day. A median of just 9% of Muslims say they have already completed the hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca), although this once-in-a-lifetime obligation applies only to those who are financially and physically capable.
Pew Research has not asked American Muslims whether they fast during Ramadan, but a 2007 survey found that three-quarters (77%) of Muslim Americans say fasting during Ramadan is very important to them.
Duran Pintol who is the Imam of the Islamic Bosnian cultural community in the West German city Oberhausen, speaks about the challenges Muslims face when fasting in Ramadan. However people who have to work are free to postpone the fasting. The prayer in the night is given special attention, as Muslims rest and prepare for the day. Children are not obliged but in case of fasting, they are given lots of vitamins to sustain the school days. Since April 2011, Pintol has been chosen as an imam in the “Bosnian Islamic Culture Community of Oberhausen”, which is an officially registered association for culture and religion.
Although keeping the fast during Ramadan is one Islam’s five pillars, around one third of French Muslims do not observe the sacred tradition. Many young people choose to not fast due to practical reasons, such as the inability to perform well in their profession while keeping the fast. Others are traditionally exempted from fasting such as children, the sick, the elder, travellers and pregnant women. For those who freely choose to not fast it is often a difficult to justify their decision in front of their families and communities, especially since there has been a great rise in piousness amongst young Muslims in France. In 2011, 71% of Muslims in France declared to fast during Ramadan, 11% more than in 1989.
The ‘non-fasters’ often feel ashamed in front of their peers and find it increasingly difficult to be different amongst France’s Muslim communities. Some parents, however, support their children’s decision such as those of a 20-year-old student of Tunisian origin who chose to not fast to keep his vacation job. His parents, for instance, consider his career more important than fasting.
Haoues Senigeur, a political scientist and expert on Islam, says that “this choice of
non-fasters is often resented by Muslims who carry the weight of tradition”. He considers the tradition of Ramadan to correspond with a strong social conservatism and cites the example of pregnant women, who are traditionally exempted from fasting yet sometimes feel obliged to hide to eat. According to Senigeur, Islam has intensified over the years, especially amongst young Muslims born in France aged 18-24 who practice Ramadan more strictly than before.
During Ramadan, he continues, piousness increases and social ties are reinforced.