Ramadan poses extra challenges for Muslims in the West

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Ramadan takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, when Muslims refrain from food and drink from sunrise until sunset.

Since Ramadan follows the lunar cycle, every year it gets pushed back 11 days, so it has shifted from short winters to longer and warmer summers.

As such, fasting in northern Europe is harder because of the longer daylight periods, which can exceed 18 hours a day in Scandinavia.

As a minority, Muslims in the West also feel physically and culturally detached from the atmosphere of Ramadan.

“You don’t feel like its Ramadan. The spirit is missing,” Zeyad al-Khoneen, a masters graduate from Victoria University in Australia, told Al Arabiya.

“We as students in Australia have learned many things, most importantly how to cook to reminisce about the traditions we’re used to,” he said.

His school hours are also challenging, with classes starting just a few hours after he finishes Sahoor, the late-night meal before fasting resumes, he added.

“At times we really feel drained, but we can’t complain since we’re a minority,” Khoneen said.

These difficulties have made him value his cultural practices and appreciate the importance of family bonding, he added.

Muslims in the West try to find a balance between their religious obligations during Ramadan, and other commitments such as work, when most people around them are not fasting.

Huda al-Amoudi, an executive partner at investment firm Huda Associates in London, said she cannot use fasting as an excuse in her business dealings.

“I respect that there are certain times when I’m needed at the office, regardless of whether I’m fasting,” she said

“I try my best to balance between my needs and my obligations,” she added.

Sara al-Kahmous, a trainee at Permal Asset Management in London, told Al Arabiya that her experience of working during Ramadan has been pleasant.

She has been allowed to adjust her office hours, and her colleagues “respect that I’m fasting, so they avoid eating and drinking in front of me.”

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