By Julie Poucher Harbin
(RNS) An event earlier this month included a Ramadan quiz, a slideshow of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr commemorations, and a Pakistani and Mediterranean buffet dinner.
But this was a not a meet-your-Muslim-neighbor event at the local mosque. It was the 13th annual multicultural Ramadan celebration for both Muslim and non-Muslim GE Global Research employees and their families at its Niskayuna, N.Y., campus.
“It is an extremely popular event, with the 300 spots being filled within four hours of opening registration,” said Todd Alhart, GE Global Research’s director of media relations.
Adam Rasheed, a researcher with GE who emceed the last couple of Ramadan events, said one of the highlights of the annual dinner is the quiz — with the prize “a gift box of top quality baklava that is the envy of all.”
Each year, said Alhart, the event is organized around a theme that is core to GE. This year’s themes were volunteering and charitable giving and the keynote speech was delivered by the director of a local Christian charity that helps shelter and feed families. The interfaith event raised $1,700 plus matching GE funds.
During Ramadan, which began this week, and culminates with the Eid al-Fitr celebration in about a month, more companies are making efforts to accommodate the religious needs of their Muslim workers. But some businesses are going the extra mile to host events that celebrate the monthlong fast.
American Airlines’ Fort Worth, Texas, headquarters holds a special dinner organized by its Muslim Business Employee Resource Group every year during or soon after Ramadan, attended by Muslim and non-Muslim employees, said Aftab Siddiqui, a scheduler for American, who retired in 2012 but continues to attend the annual dinners.
The airline also provides nondenominational prayer rooms used by Muslim employees on a daily basis, especially during the month of Ramadan. And it offers floating holidays for employees so that they can take days off for religious holidays.
Cisco Systems, Apple, Google, and Oracle have all held iftars, or breaking-the-fast meals for Muslim employees.
“We’ve noticed an uptick in the number of companies that are acknowledging Ramadan and exploring possible accommodations for employees who are observing the holiday,” said the Rev. Mark Fowler, managing director of programs for the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, who notes that the American workplace has become more religiously diverse.
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