A Muslim Canadian's guide on how to talk to Muslims during Ramadan
This story was originally published on May 28, 2017. This year, Ramadan begins on the evening of May 16.
The month of Ramadan starts the weekend of May 26, which means for the next four weeks many Muslims will change their daily patterns.
Toronto's Sarah Hagi has noticed that while her non-Muslim friends know that Ramadan is a time when she fasts, they don't know much else about this period of time, which commemorates the period of time in which the Qur'an was first revealed to Muhammed.
Nor do they know how to act around her.
So for them, and for all non-Muslim Canadians, Vice staff writer Sarah Hagi has created a guide on what to say — and what not to say — to Muslims during Ramadan:
1. Don't be weird about eating
People don't need to be "overly apologetic" if they are eating in front of someone who is fasting, Hagi says.
"Though having others be mindful is nice, a huge part of fasting is knowing the world doesn't stop for you, and nobody is expecting special treatment. Ramadan isn't supposed to be easy, that's the whole point," Hagi says.
There are other ways to make one feel welcome without offering something to eat or drink, she says.
One summer, my best friend had put a cold towel in her freezer for me to cool off, rather than offering me a glass of water. It was one of the most kind and thoughtful things anyone has ever done for me.- Sarah Hagi
2. Don't ask why someone's not fasting.
There are many reasons — such as illness, pregnancy, old age, or menstruation —why observant Muslims cannot or do not fast, Hagi says.
"But most importantly, it's none of your business whether or not someone is fasting."
Also, asking why someone is choosing to eat or drink disregards other important aspects of being observant during Ramadan, like self-reflection and prayer, she says.
Just because someone isn't fasting doesn't mean they're not participating.- Sarah Hagi
3. Don't explain Ramadan to Muslims, regardless of what you know
"There are better ways to show you took an Eastern Religions course in first year than telling someone about their own religion and customs," Hagi says.
"Take our damn word for it."
4. Ramadan is a great opportunity to learn about a misunderstood group of people, so take advantage of that
I love talking about Ramadan with people. I love giving people the opportunity to learn more about something that's deeply important to me especially considering how Islam is sometimes presented to people.- Sarah Hagi
Hagi says that while fasting is clearly faith-based, it is a great exercise in the art of self-control.
"That's why I always encourage non-Muslims to join me even for a day in experiencing what it's like to fast."