Denmark’s bus operator debunks minister’s Ramadan safety concern

8th Jun 2018
Denmark’s bus operator debunks minister’s Ramadan safety concern

Inger Støjberg says Muslims should stay off work during Ramadan (Photo: Heb/CC)

Elham Asaad Buaras

Denmark’s national bus and train operator has debunked the country’s hard-line Immigration Minister’s claim that Muslim drivers fasting while working are endangering the public.

Writing in a column on May 20, Inger Støjberg questioned how “commanding observance to a 1,400-year-old pillar of Islam” was compatible with modern labour markets.

“I want to call on Muslims to take leave from work during the month of Ramadan to avoid negative consequences for the rest of Danish society,” Støjberg wrote.

Fasting could affect “safety and productivity,” citing bus drivers who have “neither had a drink nor eaten for more than 10 hours…This can be dangerous for all of us,” she said.

However, bus and train operator Arriva debunked her concerns. “We have never had any problems or accidents related to fasting drivers, we are not going to try to solve a problem that isn’t there.” said the company’s head of communication, Pia Hammershøy Splittorff.

Although it is uncertain what proportion of the country’s 250,000 Muslims are drivers, a third of the company’s 3,500 bus drivers are of ethnic minority background.

Splittorff said that drivers who want to swap daytime shifts during Ramadan do this on their own initiative and that Muslim drivers routinely cover for their colleagues during the Christmas period.

Dr Abir Al-kalemji, who works at Odense University Hospital’s occupational health department, also rejected the suggestion that fasting was a workplace safety concern.

“In a decade and a half as a doctor, I have never seen my fasting colleagues underperform,” Al-kalemji tweeted.

“On the other hand, several Danish colleagues have broken down due to stress and have gone home in tears because of poor working conditions. We have ministers to solve actual problems, not invent them,” she added.

Al-kalemji also clarified that only healthy adults are allowed to fast. “It is not permitted to fast unless your health and work situations allow it. It must be sensible and within reason to fast, not at any cost,” the Danish medic continued.

Al-kalemji also said Støjberg should have presented “scientific evidence” before making her claims.

“If the minister was genuinely interested in explaining the health and safety implications of Ramadan for individuals and society, she would have included the nuances of the issue in her framing of the problem, rather than settling for undocumented assertions,” she wrote in political journal Ræson.

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