By Sgt. William WhiteJune 25, 2014
KUWAIT - The holy month of Ramadan is a time of fasting, prayer and charity for Muslims. As they prepare to observe the practices of Ramadan, Soldiers stationed in the Middle East must be mindful of how their actions may be perceived by Muslims during this time.
"Ramadan is a time for an internal look and not normally a time where they conduct business as usual," said Maj. Kevin Mateer, an U.S. Army Central chaplain.
According to Muslim teachings, Ramadan is the month in which the Holy Quran was revealed as guidance and clarification to humankind and a distinction between right and wrong. The guidance given by the Holy Qur'an is followed closely by most Muslims.
Mateer said it is not difficult for Soldiers to show respect during Ramadan while in predominately Muslim nations.
"Generally Muslims will be fasting throughout the day. This is the key thing for Soldiers to be aware of when considering Ramadan," said Mateer. "Understand they will be less active and may be tired during the daytime."
Fasting is considered to be an act that is between the individual and God, and is an important element of Ramadan. Soldiers should also be mindful not to eat, drink or smoke in public, as it could be considered offensive.
Music should not be played loudly during Ramadan, but headphones are acceptable. When going off base, Soldiers should dress conservatively.
Mateer said Soldiers should be sensitive when interacting with Muslims, keeping their meetings earlier in the day to accommodate them.
"What you don't want to do is schedule some visit where they might feel obligated over the noon hour to provide some kind of refreshments for you knowing they cannot participate. If you can, interact with them in the evening," he said.
According to Mateer, most Muslims are generally sensitive to Western ways as well.
"If you were to ask them 'can I smoke or eat in front of you,' they would be gracious and would say 'yes.' However, that would be very culturally insensitive," said Mateer.
When working with Muslims, simply taking lunch in private could be seen as an act of respect, Mateer added.
Mateer encourages Soldiers to share cultural experiences with Muslims during Ramadan.
"In the evening, they have a big meal together. This would be the time to have a rich cultural experience with them," he said.
At the end of the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims will have a feast called eid Al-Fitr which symbolizes the breaking of the fast.
"You should attempt to celebrate the breaking of the fast meal with them at the end of Ramadan," said Mateer. "This is a time of celebration."
This year, Ramadan is expected to begin June 28 or 29, but is not confirmed until the crescent moon is sighted. Once stared, Muslims will participate in Ramadan traditions for 29 or 30 days.
Mateer said Soldiers should not be afraid to ask a Muslim if they have questions about the rules during Ramadan, as many will be happy to help. Understanding the cultures of various nations is a big step in furthering U.S. partnerships, and every Soldier's efforts make a difference.