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How To Be Respectful During Ramadan In Australia

Swap a lunch meeting for a mid-morning chat.

06/06/2016 8:32 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:53 PM AEST
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Be considerate of your Muslim friends this month.

Ramadan has officially started in the Southern Hemisphere, marking the beginning of a month-long daytime fast for the more than 470,000 Muslim Australians.

A little respect and understanding can go a long way, and former University of Technology Sydney academic Jamila Hussain said there were simple Ramadan tips for non-Muslims that would not affect you, but meant a lot to our Islamic friends.

Schedule catch-ups outside of meal times

"Not everyone realises people doing Ramadan won't eat or drink during daylight hours for a lunar month," Hussain said.

"Most Muslims I know would still go to a lunch meeting and just not eat anything, but it would be more sensitive to plan a meeting for the morning or around 3pm."

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Can we meet after lunch?

The first week is the hardest

Hussain said if there was ever a time to be compassionate, it was during the first week of fasting when the body was getting used to waking up before dawn to eat breakfast as well as long periods without water and food.

"The main thing is to be sensitive," Hussain said.

"The first week you can feel rather tired and hungry. Perhaps at work, don't schedule important meetings later in day when people are feeling particularly exhausted."

Don't presume everyone who is Muslim is fasting

Like any modern religion, people show their faith in different ways and Hussain said there were various reasons why someone might not be fasting.

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Children don't have to do Ramadan.

"It depends on how devout a person is," Hussain said.

"If you are sick, you might take a break from fasting for a few days and make it up later, then there are people who don't have to fast like pregnant women, the elderly and people with a chronic health condition."

Understand evening catch-ups may be off the cards

As the sun sets each day, the day's fast is broken with a light meal after prayer. Mosques will have daily evening services that cover the entire Koran during the course of Ramadan.

Again, Hussain said it wasn't mandatory, but was very important for some to be free for the service.

"Not everyone attends but for some, it's very important," Hussain said.

Travellers should be aware of traditions

In some parts of Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and more, Ramadan will make for a different experience.

Beawiharta Beawiharta / Reuters
Muslims attend the Ramadan tarawih prayer in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Hotels and restaurants may be running on a skeleton staff, so plan where you'll have your lunch meal and pack a few snacks to eat discreetly if you get caught out.

It's also a brilliant time to soak up nightlife when the daily fast is lifted, where you'll often find Ramadan tents for feasting and celebrations.

It's also a time to be especially respectful of local customs, with a 2011 study showing Britons in the Gulf emirate were more likely to be arrested during Ramadan. Be aware of actions that could get you arrested like drinking alcohol in public, dressing immodestly and public displays of affection.

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