Being a Muslim in a non-Muslim work environment means that we are faced annually with the Christmas celebration dilemma. To some of course, this isn’t a dilemma, however Muslim Women Connect were recently inundated with messages confirming that an overwhelming majority struggle with alcohol during Christmas in the work place.
Generally, Christmas in modern work environments means that there is a lot of sparkle, decorations and food being shared in communal areas. Some places may go on to play Christmas songs (queue Mariah and Wham!), but with this comes the dreaded Christmas do and alcohol. This is where we discovered it gets tricky.
When it is time for the Christmas party, they usually happen to be set in an alcohol fuelled environment, for many Muslims an important moral decision has to be made. It appears many factors are involved, and with this decision making comes guilt, unease and sometimes compromise.
In personal experiences, short team lunches and dinners in canteens/restaurants don’t bother me, whilst dining areas in pubs do. All out parties with a dance floor and drunk people is a whole different level. Whether I am visibly Muslim or not, being present in any alcohol fuelled environment has never sat easy with me and this is not restricted to the Christmas period.
We asked for some insights from Muslims who have had to navigate this and here is a roundup (in no particular order) of experiences, tips and advice!
- Be honest with yourself and your colleagues from the get go
- If you feel obliged, go for the first hour and leave before it gets too crazy
- Ain’t nobody got time to appease others at the expense of your comfort and morals. If you don’t want to go, don’t
- Be yourself and act normal. Mention you’re uncomfortable around alcohol. Most people respect your choice
- Sometimes the decision comes down to confidence in yourself and faith which for some may take time. It’s okay to change. If you went last year, you can say no this year
- Use the ‘It’s like taking a vegetarian to a steakhouse’ line, it works! People are understanding if you simply explain it
- Not just for Christmas, but in general, organise your own non-alcoholic socials
Whatever decision you came to this year, and whatever decisions you will have to make in the future, it is important to stay true to what you’re comfortable with. It is never black and white, growth and development is different for everyone and is a constant. Being working adults in the west means naturally we will experience these things. Alhamdulillah, as Muslims we are equipped with guidance from our religion, and beyond that we have a community of people navigating these very same issues.