The sun is shining across the UK (for once), we’ve somehow managed to win a football World Cup and Ramadan is in full swing. It’s the holiest month of the year for Muslims, with some three million people across the country abstaining from food and drink in the daylight hours.
Here in the UK, the right to practice your religion is protected as part of our human rights. Article 9 of the Human Rights Convention states that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes … to manifest his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”
Ramadan is about much more than simply fasting from all food and drink, but this act alone can take getting used to and can affect every part of your life, especially work. We spoke to Muntaha Nabi, a 22-year-old working at a tuition centre, about how workers’ rights and religious beliefs intersect.
‘It’s not just a month to refrain from food and water’
Currently I’m working at a tuition centre, so I’ve been working while I’ve been being fasting. Ramadan for muslims is the holiest month of the year, but this month isn’t just to refrain from food and water, it’s just a part of it. It’s also to refrain from acts which are harmful and which are not beneficial. It’s a month of discipling yourself, doing good for others and for giving to charity
It’s a month of change, realising things you want to change and improve in yourself
It is a month of change, realising things you want to change and improve in yourself, and how to help people around us. It is a very spiritual thing. The lack of food and water is a reminder to us, to make us realise we are dependent on a higher source, which we believe is god.
‘At the beginning it’s very difficult, but it has helped me at work’
At the beginning it is difficult. But as I said, you discipline yourself. A lot of muslims will actually say that after a while it becomes really easy because you know you’re striving for a better purpose. In the workplace, people expect it to be difficult, but i think it has actually helped me. I remember that this is the month of Ramadan, I should be doing everything to the best of my abilities and capabilities, in my workplace and everywhere around me.
Just these little things make you feel valued as an employee
Employers should keep in mind that people may be fasting, and might be feeling light-headed or dizzy. We are not expecting free hand-outs, that because you’re fasting you should be getting special treatment. A five-minute break. Just these little things that make you feel valued as an employee. But regardless of whether I was fasting or not, I feel employers should take these things into consideration, whatever religion you are.
It really does enhance the culture of the workplace if employers are aware of these things and are aware of what employees are going through. When you use the word ‘employee’ it creates a detachment, because at the end of the day we are all humans, and I think you just have to understand what the person is going through and empathise with them and cater for them – just doing small things that might make their day easier.
Want to know more about this kind of stuff?
- See our explainer on what the right to religious freedom means
- Take a look at this beautiful infographic about Article 9
- Explore some cases about human rights and religion