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Middle East Business Etiquette & Culture

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Middle East Introduction

Religion plays a very important role in all the countries of the middle east. The predominant religion for the Arab and middle eastern countries as well as Turkey, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Djibouti, Gambia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia is Muslim. India is predominantly Hindu, but also has a sizeable Muslim population.

Muslims follow the doctrines of the Koran, which forbids alcohol and the flesh of scavenger animals (i.e. pork), birds and fish (i.e. shellfish). It also discourages use of caffeine and nicotine, although neither are forbidden; in fact, they tend to be consumed in great quantity in Arabic and Middle Eastern countries.

Avoid pork and pork products like ham, bacon, pate, hot dogs or sausage. Avoid food prepared with pork products like lard, which can include even pastries. It is a good idea to avoid any pork dishes at a banquet when Muslims are in attendance because the other dishes might become contaminated in preparation or serving. Don't serve shellfish like crab or lobster. Fish is an acceptable alternative to meat and shellfish. Some Muslims prefer Zabihah meat which has been slaughtered according to special rules. Zabihah meat is similar to, but not the same as, kosher meat. Do not serve alcohol in the presence of guests, especially government or religious officials, from the more fundamentalist Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, even if you know that the individual may drink in private. Many Muslims, however, do take exception to the rule forbidding alcohol. Pakistanis, for instance, are more liberal and frequently consume alcoholic beverages. But, it's best to err on the side of caution, especially in public. Serve fruit juices for toasts when alcoholic beverages cannot be consumed. Avoid food cooked in alcohol, even if all the alcohol has burned off in cooking. Muslims fast until sundown during the month of Ramadam.

Hinduism: Hindus live predominantly in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka with large groups also found in Great Britain, Pakistan and the United States of America. Their dietary restrictions vary according to region, local custom, caste and acceptance of outside practices. Primarily, though, orthodox Hindus shun all animal and fish products except milk and honey because of the Hindu doctrines of non-violence, karma and rebirth.

Beef is taboo because the cow is sacred. However, milk and butter are considered pure because of their non-violent connection to the cow. Most Hindus are vegetarian. Some do eat eggs and occasionally westernized Hindus do eat meat. Others, especially Jains, do not eat root vegetables such as onions, carrots, potatoes or beets. While westernized Hindus often drink alcohol, most Hindus don't drink alcoholic beverages. Fruit juice or soft drinks should always be offered as alternatives, especially for the women. When in doubt, ask what the individual's preferences are. Indians will not take offense at the question.

 

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An Imam explains Islam
By IMAM SHAMSHAD A. NASIR

Islam is the name of the religion that was founded 1,400 years ago by the Holy Prophet of Islam, Muhammad. Islam is an Arabic word which means peace, love and complete submission and obedience to God. There is no difference between Islam and Muslims. Islam is the religion that a Muslim follows, just as Christianity is the religion which a Christian follows.

A Muslim is someone who has accepted Islam and lives his whole life according to the teachings of Islam. A true Muslim is one who is loving and caring, promotes peace, and is fully obedient and submissive to the will of God.

Islam demands from its believers that they establish peace in the world, promote love and make such examples of themselves that others, knowing that they are Muslims, feel at peace and harmony in that knowledge. This is the true Islam and what it means to be a Muslim.

The Holy Prophet of Islam has said that a true Muslim is one whose actions and words do not harm his fellow man.

ISLAMIC GREETINGS
When Muslims greet each other, instead of saying, “good morning” or “hello” they say “Assalamo Alaikum,” which means “May peace be upon you and may God's blessings be with you.” This greeting makes a Muslim aware that he has to spread love and peace wherever he goes.

ATTRIBUTES OF GOD
There are many attributes of God, one being “AsSalam” meaning “the Bestower of peace and love.” Man has been created to fashion himself to the attributes of God and Muslims must try to adopt this attribute of God.

If someone calling himself a Muslim and a follower of the Holy Prophet does not promote peace and love in his actions and does not follow this teaching, he cannot be a true follower of the Holy Prophet.

A MUSLIM'S PRAYERS
Muslims pray five times a day, asking God for his love.

They pray, “Oh God! You are Peace and from you, is Peace; Blessed are you, O Lord of Majesty and Bounty.”

THE RELIGION OF ISLAM
Islam is a religion from God for the whole of mankind and the name Islam was given to the Muslims by God himself in the Holy Quran.

“This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed my favour upon you and have chosen for you Islam as religion.”

The Holy Quran has been sent for the guidance of mankind. It is full of wisdom and commands.


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