A person who declined a “small” request from their Muslim housemates during Ramadan, a holy month of fasting observed by Muslims, has received strong support on Reddit.

In a post shared on Reddit’s Am I The A****** (AITA) subforum, user J-Pembroke said they live in a shared house with three others in “a large European city.” The poster said they mostly work from home and tend to eat earlier than others, as the other tenants have to commute home.

The poster said their two Muslim housemates asked if the user could “stop having dinner so ‘early’ because they smell it, see me eat it and apparently it makes them even more hungry, making Ramadan harder for them.”

“I initially said no and they then asked if I would at least eat dinner in my room so they didn’t have to see it,” the poster added.

Two women wearing hijabs and man praying.
A stock image of two women wearing hijabs and a man seated at a table with their hands open during a prayer before a meal. A post about a tenant who refused their Muslim housemates’ request for the tenant to “stop having dinner ‘early’,” because that “makes them even more hungry” during Ramadan has sparked debate on Reddit.
iStock / Getty Images Plus

The user asked: “Am I the a****** for refusing to eat later to make life easier for my Muslim housemates?”

According to estimates reported in August 2017 by the Pew Research Center, there were reported to be around 3.45 million Muslims in the U.S. This estimate was based on an analysis of census statistics and data from a 2017 survey of U.S. Muslims.

Ramadan takes place in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which follows the phases of the moon (the lunar cycle). The month-long fast, which began in March this year, is observed every day from sunrise to sunset.

Ramadan is a period of practicing self-restraint to keep in line with ṣawm (meaning “to refrain” in Arabic), which is one of the pillars of Islam.

The Muslim Council of Britain explains: “A key objective of fasting [is an] increase in taqwa (closeness to / consciousness of God), and to engender a sense of gratitude, self-discipline and self-improvement, at both an individual and community level, which Muslims are encouraged to continue throughout the year.”

At an individual level, fasting encourages Muslims to “feel an affinity with the poor across the world who have little or no food to eat,” the council said.

The user in the Reddit post said: “I’m an atheist, but I’m a firm believer of religious freedom and I don’t care what anyone believes unless they are hurting others.

“I feel torn. On one hand, there is no massive harm to me waiting another 30/45 mins to have my dinner, so I could do a small thing to help them. On the other hand, it is their religious choice and I don’t really see why I should change my behavior,” the poster explained.

‘Intrusive and Disrespectful’

Laura Windsor, an etiquette and protocol consultant and founder of the Laura Windsor Etiquette Academy in London, told Newsweek that “expecting others to accommodate your needs during Ramadan is an imposition.”

She noted that imposing your beliefs, values or principles on others may be perceived as “intrusive and disrespectful.”

Windsor, who received her etiquette training from a former member of the royal household of Queen Elizabeth II, explained: “One should take responsibility for one’s own life. If you have chosen a specific route, whatever that may be in life, then keep to it, don’t involve others by asking them to sacrifice their needs to suit yours.”

‘Etiquette and Interfaith Empathy’

Cyrus Zargar is the Al-Ghazali distinguished professor in Islamic studies at the University of Central Florida. In a March 2023 article for the university, the professor was asked about how non-Muslims can be more respectful or considerate of Muslims observing Ramadan. He said “the most important thing” you can do is “be aware that it is the month of Ramadan.”

He explained: “Be cognizant that, if someone is fasting, their energy levels might be lower. They might appear drowsy at times, or yawn more often, but that should not be misinterpreted as a lack of effort or interest.”

The professor added: “As an expression of etiquette and interfaith empathy, I would say to avoid expecting a fasting person to be present at lunch meetings, if possible. Even if a person says that he or she is happy to attend, it would be thoughtful to accommodate a fasting person by being aware of their fatigue, hunger, and thirst, as much as possible.”

Several users on Reddit sided with the original poster.

In a comment that got 18,700 upvotes, user Sea_Rise_1907 said: “NTA [not the a******].The literal point of Ramadan is to look temptations in the face and resist it. It’s supposed to bring you closer to god, and humble the rich by making them equal with the poor. They’re not supposed to ask you to change for them.”

In a comment that got 4,100 upvotes, user No-Mechanic-3048 said: “I’m assuming he is eating in the common area. Which is not okay to ask someone to leave a shared area that is for eating. NTA.”

In a comment that got 2,200 upvotes, user LokiCatofMischief wrote: “I know fasting is not easy but as adults participating in Ramadan they should know how to conduct themselves around non-fasting individuals, especially if they plan on having kids or wives.”

Other commenters suggested it would be a friendly gesture for the poster to agree to the housemates’ request.

“It sounds as though they aren’t making demands, they’re politely asking for a favor. You don’t have to grant it, but if you can do so without any significant inconvenience, it would be a nice thing to do. And I think when you are in a shared living arrangement it’s normal to be willing to make a few compromises so everyone is comfortable,” commented ProfessorYaffle1. “If you aren’t willing to eat later, then eating in your room would be thoughtful.”

User magnitudearhole said: “I’d do it out of courtesy if it was easy to do so. Not sure that’s the case here.”

Newsweek has contacted the original poster for comment via the Reddit messaging system.

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