Scenario One: Muslim fasting during month of Ramadan5
Ramadan month is considered to be the holiest month. Muslims abstain from food, water, smoke, and anything else that enter into the body. There are other actions as well that are considered strictly forbidden (even during other months), while fasting including lying, insulting, gossiping about someone behind his/her back, greed or jealousy. Muslims break their fasting at sunset. After sunset they are then able to drink and eat without limitation. (sunset being around 5 p.m. during the winter and 9 p.m. during the summer). One of the problems that employers often face with their Muslim employees is the month of Ramadan.
Tarek El Masry, has been working as junior Sales manager (one year contract) in a medium company specialized in video games, based in Paris. His working hours have been from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. For Tarek, practicing Ramadan has posed several challenges. First, he must abstain from his lunch break. At the beginning, there was no problem with this since he is used to working during his usual break. However, the problem has become bigger after asking his manager if he could possibly finish work earlier since he normally does not take his one hour daily break. The manager views this as unfair for the other employees and feels that the employees should accommodate themselves to the working hours of the company, regardless of their personal obligations.
The other problem has been business luncheswhere important matters are discussed with important clients of the company. Tarek wasn’t able to attend one of them which was planned during Ramadan. The manager understood his situation and asked another employee to attend on his behalf. In addition to this, Tarek needs to interrupt his work to perform at least three of the five daily prayers which constitutes an essential pillar of Islam. Those three prayers (noon, afternoon and sunset prayers) can take up to five minutes each. He also needs a personal space to perform it. For the time being he was allowed to pray, and was actually given a small unused room to perform his prayers in it. But if he is to attend meetings or presentations, this can pose a problem since it may take up to two consecutive hours. At sunset (which is around 5 p.m. at that time), Tarek breaks his fasting and eats a quick snack until finishing work and goes home to eat his first meal of the day. Moreover, greetings have become an issue since Muslims should avoid physical contact while fasting.
For the end of Ramadan, Tarek has asked one day off for “‘Eid” – the day where Muslims celebrate the end of the holy month. The relation between him and his manager has been tense since they never discussed the issue of Ramadan and its implications for both sides. The manager is bored with Tarek’s “excuses” for asking not to do certain things. My friend decided to openly discuss with his manager to explain him how this month is important for the Muslim community. The manager showed understanding while listening to his employee but was still convinced that it was “abnormal” for the company to re-schedule Tarek’s working hours and to assign some of the tasks supposed to be done by Tarek to other. For Tarek, fasting Ramadan is part of his religious duties which actually constitute part of his life, making it an important issue for his inner comfort. Stopping Ramadan during work would be almost impossible for Tarek.
With these points in mind please answer the following questions:
- Where does the Islam religion come from? Who is the leader?
- How many people around the world are Muslims? How fast is the religion growing?
- Why do Muslims fast? Why is this month significant to Muslims?
- How many days do Muslims fast?
- Which groups or individuals does fasting apply to? Who is exempt?
- If you miss fasting can you make it up? When?
- Does Ramadan fall on the same date every year?
- As an H.R. consultant you have been hired to make recommendations to this company. List and explain your recommendations in detail.
Scenario Two: Expats Influence on an Arab Country
United Arab Emirates is unique in that expatriates constitute more than 80% of the population. As the country continues to grow and accept foreigners at an astounding pace, Emiratis worry that their national identity and culture are at stake. “People here have been feeling that we are losing our own country if this double-digit growth continues and if the government does not address the problem and address it squarely and urgently”, says a professor of political science at UAE university.
Issues such as demographic imbalance, the disappearance of the Arabic language, competition over jobs, lagging education and a lack of religious sensitivity towards the Emirati cultural and religious values have been discussed in the past but are now taking center stage. As one Emirati commented “Today an Emirati student is being taught Islamic studies in English by a Pakistani. This is the state of our nation”.
Several factors have exacerbated this problem. First, most foreigners coming to the UAE were initially Arab or Muslim, or from similar countries. Today more are coming from the west, Russia or the Balkan countries where the cultural values are markedly different.
The younger generation say that expatriates are a part of the equation. “If we Emiratis don’t adapt, we will become extinct”, warning that there is a need for integration and dialogue between expats and locals.
Other Emiratis advocate making Arabic the main language for communication, and improving the public education system so Emiratis do not feel the need to attend private international school. Some say that foreigners should be welcome on a temporary basis not as permanent residents. “Giving 99 years for those buying properties to stay here is a mistake”.
“We ought to note that we are not opposed to foreign nationalities and not opposed to the English language” says Culture Minister. But this must not be instead of our nationality, our language and our identity.
- How would you describe the current national identity and culture of UAE?
- How can they preserve their identity and culture? List 5 specific actions that should be instituted to preserve their identity and explain your reasons for each one.