I was reading this article by a Shafie in TransitioningOrg. He related an incident when the company was organising a Christmas lunch party and how he was labelled a trouble maker.
I quote, ‘Soon, she came over to my desk and she informed me that she had booked a restaurant that served non-halal food. And she asked, would it be okay, for me, if she requested the restaurant to serve vegetarian, or order halal food from somewhere else and bring it to the restaurant?
I voiced out that, first of all, I’ve never heard of any restaurant that allows outside food. Secondly, a budget has been set aside for the party, and while the rest of the staff gets to enjoy a sumptuous meal……the rest of the minorities was expected to eat vegetables? – Sorry, to my vegetarian friends. Thirdly, why was the staff never consulted and a consensus taken to which restaurants we would like to have our party?
And before I could offer other alternatives, she exclaimed, ‘Why are you so strict?!’’
Actually the problem can be solved quite easily. No need to ask staff of all other religions which restaurant they would want the Christmas party to be held. Any restaurant will do. The main issue is food. Please let me explain.
For the vegetarian, ask the chef to prepare vegetarian turkey, vegetarian ham etc etc. There are all kinds of mocked vegetarian meat dishes available or can be created. Okay Christmas party must have turkey and ham. Log cake should not pose any problem.
As for the Muslims, instead of ham, provide them with lamb, and turkey can still be turkey if halal turkey is available. If that is not possible, get an oversize halal chicken instead from Kentucky. When I was in Saudi Arabia, they served no alcoholic beer and wine if I remembered correctly.
I think the Muslims will understand and such a compromise arrangement may be acceptable. I am saying maybe, just my opinion. I am not a Muslim and I may be wrong and insensitive to say this. Please disagree with me if you have to.
Point to note is that we are a multi racial and multi religious society and we must pay special attention to the sensitivities of every group. What is normal and taken for granted by one group can be something very sensitive and serious to another. This problem will be exaggerated when the population gets bigger and more people from other nationalities migrated here and become our colleagues and neighbours. Things can only get more complex and more sensitive as we go forward.