Ramadan officially begins this week. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar where Muslims all over the globe observe a month of fasting from sunrise to sunset. I first learned of Ramadan when a colleague friend began fasting for Ramadan several years ago. As a symbol of solidarity and interfaith expression, I decided that I would fast one day with her. In that year, Ramadan was in November, so sunset was pretty early unlike this year with sunrise around 6am and sunset around 8:30pm.
While learning about Ramadan from her that year, it dawned on me that this is what Hakeem Olajuwon was doing during a championship run with the Houston Rockets of the NBA. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but experiencing this for one day made me marvel at Olajuwon’s feat – playing professional sports while not eating or drinking between sunrise and sunset. How did he do that? A couple of years ago, Ramadan was again in sporting news thanks to brothers Husain Abdullah and Hamza Abdullah of the National Football League. They fasted while enduring the rigors of a football training camp.
With Ramadan well on its way and as I plan to observe another day of fasting in solidarity, I started thinking about what it would mean if workplaces started practicing this diversity partnership. Non-Christians observing Lent with their Christian co-workers; Christians observing Ramadan with their Muslim coworkers; non-Jews recognizing Rosh Hashana; everyone regardless of race celebrating Kwanzaa; non-Buddhists observing Asalha Puja; and non-sport fans joining in the hoopla of the Super Bowl, World Cup or World Series. Well, you get the idea. What would that mean if that happened? It would mean:
People feel comfortable enough to be their authentic selves.
They have a personal-professional relationship. (That is, while they may not socialize after work, they have shared their personal stories, but still keep a professional distance.)
They have accepted their differences with mutual respect.
They view their differences positively and engage in learning about them.
What would have to happen in your work environment to encourage this diversity-partnership?