Exchanging a religious holiday gives room to all faiths

Published on: 25 April 2022

What if an employee wants to be free on the day that Muslims celebrate Sugar Feast and wants to work on Good Friday, for example? No problem at APG. We stand for an inclusive work environment where everyone can be themselves. This also includes celebrating religious holidays. And not just on the days that Dutch employees have officially off. Colleague Mohammed Elfayda is very happy with that. “I really get all the space to exercise my faith.”


This Ramadan is a very special one for Mohammed Elfayda, Product Owner Swift & Payment Services at APG. “Because corona is 'over' and we are now at home with the three of us instead of the two of us. For my family it is really a month of reflection and self-reflection.”

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and it started on April 1 this year. It is a very important month. "During this period, Muslims commemorate Muhammad receiving his first message from God. Everything that God told him was written down in the Quran. And we do that commemoration by fasting; one of the five pillars of Islam, in addition to profession of faith, prayer, almsgiving and a pilgrimage to Mecca. And that means that we Muslims do not eat or drink anything between sunrise and sunset. No, not even a drink of water."


His work does not suffer from fasting, says Mohammed. "We are allowed to set our own working hours at APG and that is ideal, really. So, during this month, I get up before dawn to have something to eat, which means that my nights are always broken up during Ramadan. But then I have the freedom to start work an hour later. Another advantage is that I have the opportunity to do my prayers in Heerlen as well as in Amsterdam."

No, not even a drink of water

Set tables
When Mohammed thinks back to the old days, he automatically gets a smile on his face. "The whole family together, long, set tables and everyone was happy. The last two years were different because of Covid. And this year is still not like before; everyone is still cautious. And rightly so. This year we have been sharing meals only with my parents or parents-in-law and not with the whole family. And we do that only at our house. Because our 9-month-old son is used to going to sleep around eight o’clock. And because sunset is currently around 8:45 p.m., the family comes to our place."


Fixed traditions

According to Mohammed it is a tradition to break your fast with a glass or milk and a date in the evening. Followed by a cup of soup. "That may be traditional harira or a tomato-vegetable soup. My own tradition is to have some bread with Bufkes party sauce on it, with the soup, haha. Once I finish that, I’m pretty full. About an hour and a half after dinner, we go the mosque for evening prayers."


A lot of sweet stuff
Now that Ramadan is almost over, Mohammed is looking forward to the Sugar Fest. That may take place on May 2, the exact day depends on the new moon. “Around the last days of Ramadan, people check whether the new moon has been seen. When it is Eid, you actually only know the night before. On that morning of the first day of the tenth month, called shawwal, we get up early, take care of ourselves and go to the mosque. After the prayer, something is eaten, for example dates or other sweets, to indicate that the fast is really over. Then the party begins. We visit family, eat more sweets and exchange presents. And if possible, we also visit the graves of deceased loved ones.”
In terms of work, nothing stands in the way for Mohammed to celebrate the Sugar Fest. “APG has launched a diversity day. That means that every employee can exchange Good Friday for a religious holiday of their choice.”