Home Office staff told not to eat near fasting Muslims

Staff at the Home Office have been told they should not eat in front of Muslims who are fasting during Ramadan.

An internal five page document produced by the Home Office Islamic Network told staff to “please be sensitive when eating lunch near a Muslim colleague who is fasting.

“This can make an individual feel hungrier and make it more challenging to observe the fast.”

The news comes in the same month as Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, called on non-Muslims to fast with Muslims in order to understand more about their “Muslim neighbour”.

The Home Office advice also read: “The most likely need Muslim staff may present to managers during this period is for flexibility around working hours and break times as those fasting will have a slightly different routine from usual.

“Managers and Muslim staff should discuss what their needs are and be responsive and sensitive.”

But the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, an independent group, said: “We don’t care how much non-Muslims eat in front of us.

“It’s never been an issue and never will be and we have never asked for any special treatment or sensitivity from non-Muslims whilst fasting.”

The Home Office internal advice is likely to fuel criticism of public authorities for showing greater sensitivity to Muslims and people of other faiths than to Christians.

In May the Foreign Office launched a consultation on whether Christmas merited a special greeting for embassy officials, after Foreign Secretary David Miliband missed it last year but remembered Ramadan.

Last year, councillors in Tower Hamlets, East London, were told not to eat in town hall meetings during the Muslim month of Ramadan.

But the same council renamed a staff Christmas party as a ‘festive meal’ and banned Guy Fawkes at bonfire night.

In August the Employers Forum on Belief (EFB) said public bodies in particular should be studying religious practices like Ramadan in preparation for the new Equality Bill.

An EFB spokesman said: “The more employers can do now to understand religious events and activities, the better they will be prepared”.

The Equality Bill will force public bodies to ‘promote equality’ across various grounds including religion, although there are concerns that Christianity could be left at the bottom of the pile.

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