Dear Ali: I work for a company in Abu Dhabi that makes quilts, and we recently had an all-day workshop for our staff. When it was time to pray, I just prayed in the room we had the workshop in, but one of my co-workers kept disturbing me. Afterwards, she insulted me because I had prayed and hadn't listened to her. Did I do something wrong? KT, Abu Dhabi
Dear KT: I give workshops to companies as well and I know how difficult it can be if the workshop lasts so long. I don't think you did anything wrong, especially if you conducted the prayer during a break, but if you did it while the workshop was in session, then I understand if others didn't appreciate that.
It might have been better to leave the room and pray somewhere else. Most public buildings and offices have prayer rooms so that you don't feel disturbed and can fully concentrate on your prayer. However, since you prayed during the workshop, it could have caused some irritation for some of your co-workers who aren't Muslim. If they were Muslim, they wouldn't have disturbed you in the first place and also would have understood you wanting to pray. But again, I suggest that as part of our professional work life, it's not acceptable to have someone in the middle of a workshop who decides to pray as it's just not proper.
Since your co-worker reacted very rudely, you could approach her sometime after work and invite her to your home so you can discuss what happened at the workshop, but without turning it into a huge debate about religion.
You could kindly let her know that if you were ever to see her praying you would leave her alone because you know that prayer is important and no one, no matter what religion that person is, likes to be disturbed when they are praying. See, by focusing on praying as a universal religious characteristic and not only something to do with Islam, she might show more understanding in the future.
Dear Ali: I am a Muslim woman from Pakistan. My neighbour, who is from Australia and who is not a Muslim, has warned my husband to leave the swimming pool area if he does not like her wearing a bikini. She loves wearing the bikini, but the style is too revealing, from G-string to almost nothing, and I find it very disrespectful towards our religion. How should we deal with her? SA, Dubai
Dear SA: I'll assume that since you are sharing a swimming pool, that means you are living in a complex. In this case, the first thing I would ask is if the complex management has any rules about the swimming pool dress code. In general, wearing a bikini on a beach or in a swimming pool is OK except in Sharjah where bikinis are forbidden on public beaches.
I understand that you feel offended. It is also too bad that she has become quite aggressive about it. From a cultural point of view, it's definitely something that the majority of Emiratis and Muslims in our country don't want to see becoming more frequent. Most of the time, women who are wearing bikinis are not in the water but rather, are out of the water, which, in my opinion, is where most of the issues start. Please note that wearing such a revealing bikini type is not even acceptable to many western families I know in our country. I hope this issue gets solved soon and you can all enjoy swimming in the same pool. The alternative is to take note of when she usually uses the pool, then make sure you go at a different time.
Ali Al Saloom is a cultural adviser and public speaker from the UAE. Follow //www.ask-ali.com">www.ask-ali.com to ask him a question and to find his guidebooks to the UAE, priced at Dh50.
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