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Ramadan Tips for Soldiers, Police Officers, and Civilians
1. Good manners dictate that people avoid eating, drinking, chewing gum, and the use of all tobacco products in front of Muslims during the daylight hours of Ramadan, when Muslims must abstain from consuming any liquids or food. Profanity, sexual references, and inappropriate language and behavior should always be avoided around Muslims, but especially during Ramadan. Do not offer Muslims food or drink during the days of Ramadan. If you do need to eat, drink, chew gum, or use tobacco, try to do so out of the direct view of Muslims.
2. During Ramadan, most Muslims will be up by 2:00 or 2:30 a.m., so they can have the morning meal eaten before the call to prayer. It will be most effective to schedule morning appointments, while individuals are nourished and fresh. By 11:00, most Muslims will have been up for over eight hours and will have gone without food and water for over seven hours. Try to complete appointments and be out of the village or community at least an hour before dhuhr, the noon prayers.
3. Muslims cannot drink anything during the day, so keep appointments short and frame your questions so they can be answered concisely, with a minimal amount of words. If you keep appointments short and include one or two positive comments about Ramadan or Islam, you will show cultural awareness and respect. This can help take your personal and professional relationships to the next level.
4. Muslims are encouraged to avoid gossip or speaking badly about someone, especially during Ramadan. Some Muslims may be reluctant to provide a candid assessment of individuals or groups. Be tactful and try to avoid making critical or negative comments about others during Ramadan.
5. By late afternoon, Muslims will become tired, hungry, dehydrated, and perhaps a bit cranky. This tends to accumulate as Ramadan progresses, diminishing effectiveness and capacity. Try to avoid scheduling afternoon appointments and activities, especially ones that task them intellectually or physically. They will be thirsty, hungry, tired, and feeling the effects of the fast, increasingly so, further into Ramadan.
6. The behavior of Muslims will change during Ramadan. While much focus is put into self-judgment and purifying one’s behavior, the deprivation and strain of Ramadan makes some people irritable. Muslims may be less talkative and less social during the day, especially in the last two weeks of Ramadan. This is due to the focus on spiritual matters, combined with the cumulative effects of hunger, thirst, and lack of sleep.
7. Avoid disturbing or walking in front of Muslims during prayers.
8. This primarily applies to all deployed women – military and civilian. DO NOT wear shorts, sleeveless tops, and similar items around Muslims, especially during Ramadan. If shorts are necessary for PT, consider having PT at a time and place when Muslim soldiers and civilians are not present. Wear long pants over the shorts if you are going to be seen by Muslims on your way to PT areas. “Free Will” is trumped by the desire not to offend Muslims or give motivation to radical Islamists and their suicidal pawns.
9. Avoid appointments and reduce patrols during Lailat al-Qadr (Night of Power) and the next day. Muslims will spend this day studying and praying. Some will spend the entire night in prayer and reciting the Qur'an. The next day they will need rest.
10. Donations to the poor should be made to strategic villages and communities for the celebration of Eid al-Fitr. Try to deliver most of these during the last week of Ramadan.
11. Consider going without food and water, from sunrise to sunset for at least one day during the start of Ramadan. This will increase your understanding, empathy, and respect for what Muslims experience. It will also give you something positive to talk about with Muslims.
12. There are a number of talking points contained in my Ramadan report to use during and after Ramadan to improve rapport with Muslims. Everything good in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and similar collectivist cultures, happens through personal relationships. This is the key to obtaining information, cooperation, and support. It can mean the difference between success and failure. Whatever else you achieve, otherwise, may be meaningless if you have not established and maintained the appropriate personal relationships with the most powerful, influential, and helpful people in your respective areas of operation.