According to The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, there are an estimated 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide. If you do not identify as a Muslim, chances are you work or live alongside someone who does. March 21, 2023 marked the beginning of Ramadan, a high holy season for members of the Islamic faith and a rejoiceful time of introspection, community, and giving. To commemorate, we’ve sat down with a dear friend of Raven Solomon Enterprises, Rahimeh Ramezany, to discuss how those who are not Muslim can be inclusive during the Ramadan season. According to The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, there are an estimated 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide. If you do not identify as a Muslim, chances are you work or live alongside someone who does. March 21, 2023 marked the beginning of Ramadan, a high holy season for members of the Islamic faith and a rejoiceful time of introspection, community, and giving. To commemorate, we’ve sat down with a dear friend of Raven Solomon Enterprises, Rahimeh Ramezany, to discuss how those who are not Muslim can be inclusive during the Ramadan season.
Rahimeh Ramezany is a DEI and intercultural practitioner whose work includes training, speaking, and subject matter expertise. Additionally, Rahimeh is a content creator who posts free, accessible content for those seeking to be more inclusive of Muslims in their organizational and social practices, through her various social media platforms. Organizationally speaking, Rahimeh works with groups whose DEI, HR, and People Management teams have not yet been able to include Muslims or religious identity overall within their work.
We are thankful that Rahimeh set aside some of her time to share her insights on how we can all work to make the Ramadan season an inclusive one for all who celebrate; we also discussed how those who do not observe the holiday can work to foster these inclusive and psychologically safe environments.
What is Ramadan?
In Islam, Ramadan is believed to be the month when the Quran, the Islamic holy scripture, was revealed to the Prophet Mohammad. Because of this, the season of Ramadan is one wherein many Muslims will spend a great deal of time reading their Quran, spending time with family and their Islamic community, and engaging in a season of increased kindness and charity. The Islamic calendar is a lunar one, meaning that the starting and end dates of Ramadan will shift every year.
For Ramezany, Ramadan is a season of celebration and community.
“This season is so incredibly special to Muslims; it is a time to slow down, to deeply introspect on my life and my values...and to ask: am I living in my values? It is a community and faith rejuvenation season. It is so incredibly special.”
For many who practice Islam, Ramadan brings about a season of fasting from sunrise to sunset during the entire month-long holiday. Fasting Muslims will not eat or drink during periods of sunlight throughout the month of Ramadan but will have a pre-dawn meal quite early in the morning before sunrise, and then will break their fast after sunset. Fasting Muslims will also not drink water or any other beverages during their fasts.
Children and those who have not yet started puberty typically do not fast, nor do those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, ill, or otherwise navigating health complications. Ramezany made clear that fasting during Ramadan is never intended or meant to harm one’s health, and she clarified that "someone is not ‘less Muslim’ for not fasting”, in addition to further emphasizing that Ramadan is “about so much more than just fasting.”
Building Authentic Relationships
Both organizations and individuals alike should approach allyship and inclusion of Muslim communities with an open mind and mutual respect.
Asking someone personal questions about their fasting schedule, or about their participation in Ramadan overall, can seem like a harmless way to learn more about someone and their religion. We must be mindful, however, in how we approach this conversation introspectively and how we engage in these conversations interpersonally.
“Unless someone has explicitly told you they are Muslim, you can’t necessarily know who is and who is not Muslim in your workplace, at your university, in your neighborhood, etc., because there is no one way to ‘look’ or ‘act’ Muslim,” Ramezany shared. “For example, not all Muslim women wear hijab, though this doesn’t necessarily mean someone is more or less spiritual,” she said.
In committing to checking assumptions and biases at the door, one needs to also pay attention to how and why these questions are being asked. Before engaging in an inquisitive dialogue, one must first begin by doing independent learning. Following Muslim content creators, such as Ramezany, is an excellent way to begin the journey of self-education.
“People will not be offended by sincere, respectful questions. I and other Muslim DEI practitioners have put out so many resources for those who want to find out [more about Islam]. Sincere and respectful questions aimed at being more inclusive of someone will, typically, not cause offense.”
Building meaningful relationships with people who have different identities can create spaces conducive to an open and honest exchange of beliefs, ideals, and values. In these efforts, one can both speak and treat people and their privacy in the ways in which we might hope to be treated and respected, with an air of kindness and gratitude. Given this, we can independently gauge whether the time, place, and space might be appropriate for these types of conversations, or whether it might be best to wait until engaging in reflection and research.
As in all efforts as leaders and individuals, we must remember that no one identity group exists or expresses itself in a singular way: Muslims are not a monolith. And as Ramezany shared, “within every identity marker you can imagine, there will be Muslims present.”
During Ramadan, we can work as colleagues and teammates to remember that not everybody celebrates Ramadan in the same way – the accommodations requested, and celebrations gathered might look different for many. Lunch meetings or after-work functions may not be advisable during Ramadan, but we must caution ourselves to not make assumptions about religious identities or their needs and behaviors based on possible biases and assumptions.
Creating Psychological Safety
From an organizational sense, executives and leaders can work to be mindful of when meetings are scheduled during Ramadan, avoiding lunch meetings or after-work excursions until another time of year. Additionally, through demonstrating commitment to assessing and ensuring psychological safety, organizations can work to foster cultural inquiry in a humble, respectful way for all team members.
One way to avoid breaking the trust of Muslim constituents, colleagues, and community members can be for corporations and businesses to avoid the “low-hanging fruit” of a “Happy Ramadan!” social media post that is not supported through policy and procedure that protect and center Muslim team members – whether you know they are present or not.
As discussed previously, chances are: Muslim people are present within your organization, but one must ask: would they feel safe to self-identify as Muslim in this space?
In an organizational sense, it is important we listen to the needs of team members in sense of religious identity, even when it is not comfortable, and particularly when regarding marginalized religious identities. Actively working to create psychological safety in organizational settings through both interpersonal and intercultural communication methods can create spaces that are psychologically safe and culturally inquisitive.
During the season of Ramadan, inclusionary practices and procedures that center Muslim community members might include flexible scheduling, avoiding lunch meetings or requiring after-hour commitments, in addition to providing ample time for prayer throughout the day in a safe, clean, and quiet setting. In fact, ensuring that members of any, all, or even no religious background or identity have a safe place for prayer, meditation, or introspection creates an environment inclusive of all.
Centering Muslims During Ramadan and Beyond
Organizationally speaking, it can seem advantageous to consider the inclusion of Muslims during the Ramadan season. In a holistic DEI approach, however, practitioners and allies alike can begin to understand the need to center marginalized voices, such as Muslim communities, not just once a year but never-ending in our pursuit of organizational, operational, and inclusive excellence.
This begins, in part, with checking and interrogating our various assumptions about those with marginalized religious identities.
“There is no one way to celebrate Ramadan, and, as much as it is a celebratory time, there are groups of Muslims going through an incredibly difficult time as they perhaps celebrate their first Ramadan without a loved one, or for those who cannot fast because of health....this does not negate the celebrations, but this can also be a time where Muslims without community can feel isolated; try and be kind to those who might be going through a difficult time during Ramadan” Ramezany shared.
Through respectful inquiry, education, research, and with a lens of empathy, we can all become more inclusive of Muslims during Ramadan. Similarly, respect, education, and empathy can create the foundations of psychological safety in both workplace and social settings.
Here at Raven Solomon Enterprises, we are celebrating that this Ramadan season has renewed in us excitement to champion Muslim voices, like Ramezany’s, and for us to champion readers to join us on this journey of inclusivity as we seek to make relationships with those different from us, in the name and for the sake of community. May we continue to celebrate, uplift, and amplify Muslim voices all year round.
Raven Solomon Enterprises
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