Saturday, June 4, 2016

Ramadan for non-Muslims: An etiquette guide

A typical Eid morning in the Islams' household would start with a plate of Shir Khurma for breakfast. This is a vermicelli and milk pudding, spiced with cardamom and cinnamon and served with an Indian rusk. Vermicelli noodles are a popular ingredient in a multitude of dishes and sweets eaten during Ramadan and Eid across the world. This photo shows an Indian worker drying the fine noodles in preparation for Eid.
There are 7 billion people in the world. And a full 22% of them -- 1.6 billion -- are about to begin a fast that'll last from sunup to sundown. Every day. For an entire month.
Ramadan, the holiest month of the Muslim calendar, begins after the sun sets Sunday.
But what if you're not a Muslim; just a caring, considerate person. Is there anything you should be doing so you don't come across as insensitive to your fasting friends?
Short answer: No.
Long answer: No. But you can earn some cool points if you follow these 10 tips.
Fasting for the holy month of Ramadan

1. You can totally eat in front of us ....

    For the next 30 days, Muslims around the world will abstain from eating and drinking during daylight hours. That doesn't mean you shouldn't carry on business as usual. (Just turn a deaf ear to our growling stomach)

    2. ... but try not to schedule a work lunch.

    If you have to have a brownbag, you should. But don't feel bad if we sit there, like a vegetarian friend at a churrascaria. Ditto for a happy-hour mixer. If your Muslim co-worker takes a pass, understand.
    A boy attends the early morning prayer at  Al Noor Mosque  in Sharjah, UAE.

    3. You don't have to fast with us ...

    You can if you want to see what it feels like. But it's not going to hurt our feelings -- even if we're best friends.

    4. ... but you can join us for Iftar

    Iftar is the breaking of the fast after sundown. We like to make it a big communal meal. You should come.
    A Muslim woman walks on 'sea of sands' as they prepare for  prayer at Parangkusumo beach  in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

    5. You don't have to know when it begins ...

    Ramadan isn't like Christmas or Thanksgiving, as in you know exactly when it'll fall. It bounces around, because the Islamic calendar is lunar. When it begins depends on when the new moon is seen. That's why the precise dates change from year to year.

    6. ... but please be a little flexible

    How we determine when Ramadan begins is decidedly old-school -- you have to physically see the moon (even though there are apps for that). That's why, if your co-worker says, "Starting tomorrow, can I start work early so I can leave sooner?" try to accommodate.

    7. We'll still go for coffee with you ...

    No, we can't drink. Not even water. But we'll walk with you if you want to take a break.

    8. ... but we may keep our distance

    One word: Halitosis. You try not eating or drinking the entire day. That's why we're standing a foot away from you when we talk.
    A Muslim man breathes fire during a game of fire football, known as 'bola api'

    9. You can say "Ramadan Mubarak"

    There's no "war on Christmas"-level controversy surrounding the greeting. (It means "Happy Ramadan"). Your Muslim co-worker will appreciate the thoughtfulness.

    10. ... but please don't say "I should fast too. I need to lose some weight"

    Ramadan's not about that. Plus, one of Ramadan's side effects is obesity. (It's all that post-sundown overeating)