Archived: Things NEVER to Say to Muslim Coworkers Has DiversityInc Readers Divided

Our article “5 Things NEVER to Say to Muslim Coworkers” has readers talking–about religion in the workplace, customs, attitudes and accommodations. Read a sample of these comments here.

For best practices and legal advice on religion in the workplace, check out our webinar on faith.

Want to read more in-depth information on religion in the workplace Visit our diversity-management web site,

I worked with a family from Kosovo. They practiced Ramadan. They asked no favors, and accepted that sometimes they would run into a lunch or AFTERNOON MEETING that had food. they made no conditions. if only the middle eastern Muslims would be so accommodating. i have great respect for my central European friends. Respect for true Islam. it is hard to tolerate the insincere one’s. Just like catholics, protestants, evangelicals and jews. That want tolerance for themselves, and have none for others.

Joseph Mcgrath

The family our reader worked with from Kosovo practiced Islam, and observed fasting during Ramadan. Certainly those of us who do the same know that we run into others celebrating or eating during those days– and so do our children who are in public school! I appreciate the article because religious and ethnic discrimination is not unknown, and Ramadan is now approaching. Fasting during Ramadan is not supposed to be easy, but at work some folks go out of their way to make it harder. I have been publicly asked not to leave a four hour late afternoon meeting to break my fast (although bathroom breaks were fine), asked to facilitate a luncheon discussion ‘because I wouldn’t be eating anyway’ or disappointed when three dates were sent out as possibilities for a celebratory retreat (which would include several Muslims)- and yet the only date within Ramadan was chosen. Does that mean I always meet questions with disdain Of course not! I have brought food to a department pot- luck function during Ramadan, set out a card talking about the dates for Ramadan with a plate of sweets when I needed to be present on the Eid. And I’ve answered a lot of questions with a lot of patience!

Please take this article as listing suggestions- no minority is totally oversensitive– but many wish others took the time to be authentic with their questions. Please know that most of us ‘true’ Muslims- even we Middle Eastern Muslims are very polite and understanding– I am sorry that some readers have other experiences.

–D Mansour

I find that any Muslim who finds this question offensive is far beyond the pail of any reasonable human being. As a Mormon I am frequently asked questions about why am I not drinking coffee, tea or alcohol. Why I do not shop or attend parties on Sundays (some of which I fast during as well), or other religious requirements I observe. That I should be offended because anyone asked me about it is RIDICULOUS.

It is normal human nature to be curious as to why individuals do not participate in cultural normals[sic]. NORMAL cannot be cured. If Muslim co-workers are offended it is their own personal deficiencies.

This approach doesn’t promote cultural harmony; this article promotes people walking around on eggshells around each other — like a bad marriage.

–Rachel L.

Sorry, can’t agree. There are no stupid questions, however insensitive they may be to those in the know. If asked sincerely, these questions are an opportunity to open a constructive dialogue.

–E B

I’m with E.B. I see nothing wrong with asking questions, as long as they’re asked politely and with a sincere interest in finding out the answer. I for one would be very interested to learn how the start of Ramadan is determined, and I’m sure a Muslim co-worker would be happy to explain under appropriate circumstances.

–Eddie C.

I can understand what comments should not be addressed to Muslims, but I totally disagree with the suggestion that luncheons, etc should not scheduled during Ramadan. That is going way too far. That means there should be no food on Yom Kippur because Jews may be fasting. Or nothing should be scheduled during Lent because Catholics may be giving up sweets, meat, or candy. And on and on. Whenever there are events in which I cannot take part, I quietly excuse myself. Muslimscan, too. I question your agenda here. Why do we all have to give up our basic rights and personal lifestyles for others I certainly hope the Muslims don’t have a big gripe when co-workers are preparing their daily lunch.

–Susan Dikeman

This is too much. This website should teach more about tolerance than “what not to say”. I am a non Arab Muslim and you can ask me all these questions; and I am not the exception. If someone asks why I am not dressed like a Muslim, I don’t feel offended. Instead, I see that person as un-informed or ignorant. I personally feel more insulted, if people have to think twice before they talk to me.

–Naya Golestaneh

I think these subjects are always sensitive because people are often uninformed or misinformed. Uninformed people do not want to say something offensive to someone of another faith, culture, etc. Misinformed people have their minds made up, but very often on false perceptions.

I think the article would have been more appropriate if it were promoting cultural competency through educational means rather than conversation avoidance. The information is good, but the wording of “things NEVER to say” almost seems like it could create more ignorance on Muslim faith. It should have cleared up some common misconceptions or suggested tactful ways to ask questions.

I am part of a minority group and I often run into folks who do not know if or how to address questions, etc. I would much rather answer somebody’s question, even if they are afraid I would find it too personal, than have them assume they should not do/say something in front of me.

The best thing we can do as one human race is help us get to know one another.

–Heidi J

I know it’s human nature to ask questions about things we don’t understand, but if you have to constantly answer the same questions over and over it could get old fast. I wonder if the roles were reversed and Muslims were the more prevalent religion in the country and Christians were not, would you be so understanding when you are constantly asked why you do something that might seem different from what your faith asks of you. I know from some of the answers that I’ve read so far, that some of you take questions as a chance to have dialogue about things. That however to some people is offensive, why do you need to know about something that you really don’t understand anyway. Why should a Muslim have to explain something that to him/her is Gospel and to you is not. I can’t recall asking a Christian why they go to mass at midnight on Christmas or explain to me this lent thing, nor did Noah get 2 of every animal in the world, how long did he have The fact of the matter is we should leave Religion and politics out of conversations because after we answer the question you look at us like were nutz [sic] anyway…

–G Salzano.

Everyone needs to treat everyone with respect realizing that we all have differing beliefs. There is nothing wrong with curiosity, especially if it is genuine & respectful. With that said, I don’t think anyone should expect others to follow a schedule according to their beliefs. If there is a certain time that you are not allowed to eat then why would you even go to the lunchroom If there is a meeting w/snacks then don’t eat them. I don’t expect anyone to make my beliefs their priority & I expect the same respect in return.

–Suzy Kay

I am Muslim and Middle Eastern, I have no problem if someone asked me a question in a polite way, and actually I will happy. But I have a problem if someone gave me a rude comment, or a question with sarcastic tone. like other any human being we don’t like these type of comments, but again we do accept serious questions.

or at least me 🙂

–Dawood B

“Muslims are Black. Muslims are white. Muslims are senators they’re in the White House,” says Chebli.

Is this supposed to be a crack about Obama Or is this referring to staff

–Phillip Seeberg

Keith Ellison is a Muslim and is elected to the U.S, House of Representatives and represents Minneapolis.

–Clairmonte Hughes

I’d like to hear from Muslims on this… As for myself (being a person of a particular faith), I look at questions like these as an opportunity to share about my beliefs and to let other see me as a real person, not a stereotype who must be tip-toed around. Why wouldn’t Muslims

–Victoria Victoria

I am deeply saddened by the tone of the comments today. The suggestions in this article are merely suggestions. These are the “ideal” way to handle situations. Who said you have to tiptoe around anyone like you are in an abusive relationship Why would anyone even say that The ideal situation is that you are not putting someone on the spot or making them uncomfortable. Try asking your questions in private, or try to avoid food in meetings during this time. It’s not a requirement – no one is going to explode at you for having your food. Finally, it’s a little thing called consideration. Put yourself in others shoes.

–Kelly F

Some of the questions mentioned are trivial. Muslims want everyone to know about them and be tolerant of them, you’d think asking questions would be the last thing they’d be offended by. The article plays well to the notion that Americans are simple-minded and generally intolerant. Is there anything Muslims shouldn’t say to non-Muslims regarding non-Muslim religions holidays or traditions Just wondering. My hunch is that American-born Muslims have a very different take on Islam and how it applies to everyone else than Muslims from the Middle East (like Mr. Awad, who has a rather notorious history with C.A.I.R.), whose views are likely much less tolerant. Take one Imam Hassan Qazwini (a top American Imam originally from Iraq), who Rolling Stone describes as “an unabashed Patriot.” He’s author of the book “American Crescent,” in which, after reveling in all the freedoms he and other Muslims enjoy in American, he states, however, that he does not believe we should have the freedom to mock religion, God, and the Prophets. “the idea of protecting prophets and God from slurs isn’t incompatible with democracy” Oh, yes it is, if you’re talking about America’s understanding of freedom of speech and expression. Do most American-born Muslims hold Qazwini’s view It’s hard to know at times who, Muslims or non-Muslims, needs more diversity training.

–Chris K

The views expressed herein are solely those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DiversityInc.

Latest News

NOD Forum: Honoring the Disability Rights Movement

The road to disability rights has been a long one. One that started long before the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 was passed. In celebration of 40 years of the National Organization on Disability, disability leaders, supporters and activists gathered in Washington, D.C last week to discuss the…

5 Biggest News Stories of the Week: September 29

As the saying goes, the news never stops — but there’s a lot of it out there, and all of it doesn’t always pertain to our readers. In this weekly news roundup, we’ll cover the top news stories that matter most to our diversity focused audience. 1. Research Outlines Lack…

Marriott International building

Marriott International Receives 12 Platinum Honors at the MUSE Creative Awards

Originally published at Marriott International is a Hall of Fame company.   Marriott International’s unmatched portfolio of luxury brands earned 12 Platinum Awards representing 5 dynamic brands, across 10 categories in the 2022 MUSE Creative Awards — an international competition for creative professionals. The industry leader within the luxury…

Marriott International Debuts Its New Global Headquarters Focused on Wellbeing

Originally published at Marriott International is a Hall of Fame company.   After six years of planning, design and construction, Marriott International has opened its global headquarters in downtown Bethesda, Maryland. The 21-story, 785,000-square-foot, LEEDv4 Gold-certified building is the new workplace for corporate associates, supporting over 8,100 hotels in 139…