Ramadan celebrations in the past, at Pleasanton, California and Reston, Virginia, let Oracle employees give thanks and ask questions about the Muslim culture. Employees were able to mingle, while trying out baba ganouj and fatoush salad, and ask questions about the most venerated holiday in Islam.
"It was an outreach and awareness event," said Arshad Mirza, a past lead organizer of the Pleasanton celebration. Mirza says he knows there are a lot of misconceptions about Islam, and people are curious these days about Islamic culture.
Ramadan marks the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. Muslims fast from sunup to sundown, their sacrifice reminding them to be thankful for all they have and to think of those less fortunate. Eid ul-Fitr is a three-day festival at the end of the month. On the first day of Eid, Muslims gather to attend a special prayer, then break the fast together.
The Salaat Affinity Group first hosted a Ramadan event at Oracle HQ in 1999. After the events of Sept. 11, Oracle Diversity worked with the affinity group to include an educational component, which featured Oracle employees and guest speakers. "We started trying to work with Diversity to come up with an event that showcased our different culture and different aspect of Islam to the Oracle community," says Afzal Asif, who was leading the group. The Ramadan celebration can also help answer questions that come up during the month, such as why Muslim co-workers are not eating during lunchtime at company meetings, he says.
Each year, the headquarters' Ramadan group also works with a charity from Oracle's fund-matching program, which is in the spirit of Ramadan. Groups chosen in the past have been the Rahima foundation, a Muslim charity that provides food, used cars, and other services for needy Bay Area families.
Mirza has learned a lot from previous HQ Ramadan crews, and used the same Master of Ceremonies to provide an introduction to the holiday. Both Mirza and Asif are grateful to the Oracle Diversity group, which provided funding for the events and helped with other critical details.
Helping with events like the Ramadan celebration is exactly why Diversity exists, says Jane Robertson, the director of Diversity. "Our primary goal is to create a workplace that is inclusive of all employees and to promote tolerance and respect," says Robertson. "We are pleased to partner with the Salaat affinity group, whose members and events contribute to Oracle's rich culture."
Asif says the HQ Salaat group plans to do more every year. For example, the group will help with the company's Black History Month celebration, and hopes to start volunteering with the food bank.
Mirza said that he hopes the Ramadan celebration will always be an annual event at Oracle. "We got great reviews," he added. Both Muslim and non-Muslim attendees concurred that they would like to see Ramadan celebrated again, every year!