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Reconciling foreign workers' prayer breaks with production deadlines

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For its latest installment in a series titled "Troubles at work that you can't mention anywhere else," Internet news site J-Cast (http://www.j-cast.com/) listens to the woes of a production manager at a medium-sized manufacturer.

"To boost our company's cost competitiveness, we set up an industrial park in a rural part of Japan and hired quite a few foreigners. Their number has grown rapidly over the past several years and they currently account for about 40% of the work force," he writes in a June 11 posting.

Some of these workers, he goes on, belong to a particular religion (not specified), and in accordance with the tenets of their faith, have arranged to eat special foods and take their meals apart from the other workers. But that's not a problem.

It seems that some of them also set aside prayer time several times a day.

"Some Japanese employees resent this 'personal activity' on the factory floor during working hours," the manager writes. "One day, as a contingent of foreign workers began leaving the work area on their way to prayers, the group supervisor accosted them, saying, 'Today, we have to take care of a customer's claim by 4 p.m. Can't you postpone your prayers until the job's finished?"

The contingent's leader responded, "No, the time can't be changed." Since prayer breaks had been agreed upon by the personnel section at the time they were hired, the workers were fully within their rights, and the supervisor was left with no resort but to borrow workers from another unit to make his deadline.

"Why do we have to be used as a stopgap so they can go pray?" grumbled one of the workers on loan. Hearing this, one of the foreigners who had just returned from prayers retorted, "We'd get more work done by discouraging workers from cigarette breaks."

"I suppose that the number of foreign workers will not decline anytime soon," says the writer. "In my own case, this is the first time we've ever had any trouble. But I can't seem to shrug off the feeling that something negative will come of this."

J-Cast invites Kenichi Ozaki, a clinical psychiatrist, to respond to the writer.

Noting that the work force in such high-growth firms as Uniqlo and Rakuten have become increasingly globalized, more Japanese managers are likely to be put to similar tests.

"Taking it as a given that prayer times cannot be changed, I suppose that the factory will have to put into force some rules to handle stopgap measures like this," Ozaki says.

He points out that many Japanese manufacturers have already shifted their production facilities abroad, and in Japan, the trend toward hiring more foreign workers is likely to continue as well.

"It's going to be necessary for personnel management to change to a policy that allows for 'cultural diversity.' One of the strengths of Japan's manufacturing industries in the past had been a uniformly standardized work force," Ozaki points out. "But actually, even among Japanese these days, attitudes toward work have been diversifying.

"It will be important to listen to opinions about different ways of thinking with an open mind, and then work to build consensus. I suppose that corporate cultures which are capable of generating new thinking will emerge from these encounters by finding ways to make them a positive factor in boosting their international competitiveness."

© Japan Today

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Such a break would not bother me as long as I was offered equal breaktime off for secular activities (coffee break, etc.), if the prayer time was not compensated or they worked later. However, if the other Japanese workers are actually working more then that is problematic.

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What religion could they be talking about here? I think everybody knows.

Anyway, the real issue in this story is the inability of the Japanese employers to admit what is obvious, they to should caste off their pagan belief and convert. This would eliminate these conflicts within the company.

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Isn't a certain amount of break time guaranteed by the much-ignored employment law? If people want to spend their break time praying, that's up to them, but inflexible attitudes aren't likely to get you promotions or increased bonuses. I wonder how many more people belonging to the unnamed religion will be hired by the company in the future? Not many I would imagine.

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I dont know how many prayer breaks they are taking or how long for, but I have to admit that the guy who answered back has a point. Any time of the day when I walk past an office building in my area there are hordes standing around smoking. Ditto every time I enter a starbucks on a weekday afternoon and find salarymen sleeping in there. Its no wonder to me sometimes that everyone has to work 18 hour days...if you actually count the number of productive hours it`s probably not so different to the rest of the developed world!

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Muslims want to change the rules to suit them in many facets of life. From the taxi driver who refuses to transport a passenger with alcohol, the grocery bagger who won't handle a packaged pork product, the muslim women who complained and subsequently was able to get a gym shut down to male students on the Harvard campus so the women could be segregated. Enough is enough. I wouldn't accommodate prayer time what a precedent that sets. It starts with a segregated gym, a handler refusing one aspect of his jop, demands for prayer time....and it ends where?

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Years ago when I worked for a Japanese firm, office employees were asked to stand and observe a minute of 黙祷 (silent prayer) at the stroke of noon every August 15, while the Emperor presided over ceremonies at the Nippon Budokan. I had no problem with that, and nobody tried to coerce me. It did affect work somewhat (nobody picked up the ringing telephones), but I figure one minute once a year ought to be manageable. Factory assembly lines would be an entirely different matter. In a secular society like Japan's, I could see how this might become a problem.

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Pray on your own time. not on company time. That goes for smoking and coffee too.

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This has been a long time issue in Holland. I assume we are talking about muslims because until now I have heard NO other people with other religions cause these problems yet.

The muslims want to change the rules everywhere to suit them. Break for prayer. Special food without pork. The want mosques. Wear a burka for the license (which is completely insane) etc etc. Like warallthetime said. Where does it end.

If you move to a country, you have to INTERGRATE to their rules. What if we all go to an arab country and build churches or eat pork. I believe in some countries that means death penalties. So why cant they adjust to the other countries lifestyle.

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It bothers me more when people light up cigarettes at work. At least those people praying don't pollute my air and they almost certainly stop for prayers less frequently than smokers break for a cigarette.

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I have worked many years with muslims(off different sects).

Most of them didn't ask for multiple prayers daily but on Friday they got an extended lunch-break to go to the mosque. I often went along as we bought lunch on the way back and that was very tasty. This was not free they had to work in the extra hour/week or take the pay-cut.

There was no problem as everybody accepted it and worked around the little time-diff on fridays.

Same way the company had rules for jewish workers who don't travel after friday night sundown till saturday night sundown.

Granted this was one of the big european companies but things can be arranged and worked around.

We are living in gloval society and things like this will be more common and I think the answer is to find a way/method that accomodates all. Rather than saying fit or get out.

How many christians would be happy to be told YOU work on sundays and can't go to church?

Just my view.

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prayer breaks had been agreed upon by the personnel section at the time they were hired

I don't see what the problem is here. The Personnel Dept has already taken care of the situation. The reason these workers work at that particular company is probably because they were able to negotiate those breaks. Salat likely doesn't take much longer than a cigarette break most of the time and depending on their working hours, it would only happen twice a day at most. And it has been decided upon already at contract time!

If they don't pray, they are considered sinners. You don't have to like it, but try to at least understand it a little. Good on that company to offer contracts with some sort of flexibility as to religious beliefs. Very good!

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Forgot one thing.

Many companies that employ certain religious groups have set up a separate room for their prayer(works in Thailand, etc).

As PeaceWarrior stated, prayer takes a few minutes and not like once an hour like most smoke-breaks, etc.

I also think the company had it sorted they have an agreement but it looks like certain supervisors/workers are against the agreement.

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IMO, Japan still lacks on "Global Diversity", etc training that is common for many companies now.

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PeaceWarrior has a point, this has already been agreed on.

The real problem here is that the manager tried to bend the agreed upon contracted rule. This way, as a manager, he puts these workers in a bad light in front of the rest, and no wonder the other worker was complaining! If the manager is complaining, the other staff also will. The problem here is that the management hadn't planned appropriaetly how they could finish the work within the deadline with the resources available.

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Zenny11; Is correct about how many large and small European companies work (worked), I have worked for many such companies but now they have almost all move their production to China and keep only the most basic and essential work in the countries where they must or need to accommodate this type of work force.

I am still friends with many of my former bosses and coworker and they tell me that having the production in China is a pain and is not the most practical but it is easier then trying to accommodate all the request (more like demands) such as separate lunch areas 5 prayer breaks early finishing hours on Fridays no Saturday work, it got to the point in some places that they were requested not to allow "scantly dressed women" to enter the work area or cafeteria when a certain group was working.

Well they (the workers) don't need to worry about all that anymore seeing they are all out of work now because some Chinese worker is now doing their job in China at (probably less then) a quarter of their salary and a 30 minute lunch break!

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BTW Most European companies (more likely most developed nations) have eliminated smoking breaks and I now consult for 15 medium to large Japaneses and 5 foreign companies in Japan and they have all removed smoking breaks (as well as smoking in the office) for being "unproductive" but 2 of the foreign companies accommodate the prayer break.

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I love how the manager's complaint focuses on 'foreign' workers rather than 'religious' workers. These could very well have been Muslim Japanese, and then how would he structure his complaint? I'm not a fan of Islam at all, but if these workers already negotiated the breaks into their work schedule, then there is no crime here. Like tokyotales said, it all comes down to management not planning the proper resources and manpower to get the job done on time. So the workers are asked to 'take one for the team'. I look forward to the day when Japanese companies start valuing efficiency in work and everybody can go home by 6pm.

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MottoMatto; Your point has its merits but here is the other side of the coin: If the company decided not to hire worker from the religious groups that request these breaks then we would be reading and article on how racist and discriminatory this company is towards "foreign" workers and the same would happen if they hired them and refused to "negotiate" such breaks!

As for efficiency in Japanese work, I am guessing most here only know Japanese office work, production lines function like clock work start, lunch, toilet breaks and finish time are all set down to the second, one shift starts just as on shift ends no stopping the line.

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Agree with limbojapan.

I only worked office-work(being IT), said that my stint(luckily short) at Hitachi Mycom writing firm-ware for chips was way different to all my other IT work.

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The prayer thing isn't only a problem. Only with racist or intolerant people. Also it's the company that went and recruited a group of people who belong to an unnamed religion because they couldn't find Japanese people to do it for the price they wanted. This is what you have to deal with when you have a mixture of cultures. The people were also promised this break before they started working there, so I don't see what the problem is. If the Japanese people are working work more they should make a renegotiate tier contracts with the employer to work less. It has nothing to do with the employees praying. Everyone here talking about the people going to pray, the only problem is the company's management policy and other employees who are intolerant.

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enigmaneo.

I think that is what most people here are saying.

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Japanese cultural sensitivity at its best. While Japanese are very quick to tell you this or that is the "Japanese way", there is an astounding capacity to ignore all other cultures and their requirements.

Bottom line factory drones, if you don't want people stopping for prayers, don't hire cheap labor from countries where the local religion has prayer requirements.

But if you do hire them, then deal with the cultural differences and try to learn something about other cultures for a change.

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Boy, isn't everybody jumping to conclusions? The article specifically states that these people are of "a particular religion" and everybody assumes that they are Muslims. Why can't they be over zealous Presbyterians or some other extremist religious sect?

Whatever, anyway to bring back the "wa" to the workplace, it is obvious that the Japanese should throw off their inhibitions and convert.

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The Japanese complainers don't get the right to resent the foreign workers for this. You pay foreigners to do labour at a rate that the Japanese won't take, you take them as they are. Their religious views are part of their being. You don't get to obligate them to work like Japanese but get paid like foreigners.

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What is this unspecified religion. I'm having a hard time figuring it out...

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@timorborder Take the blinders off and and until you can give me one modern example of over zealous Presbyterians behaving in this manner or any major religion for that matter than it is safe to assume that they are Muslims as this is their modus operandi.

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Come on, you'd come across the same kind of problems in any blue-collar American factory town, too, despite our supposed state of enlightenment about things human resource.

Still, diversity training is definitely poised to become a hot topic here. It is only a little bit about hiring and managing a more diverse group of employees, and a lot about managing preconceptions, resistance, and sometimes outright hostility among the existing workforce. Many companies get too tied up in hiring more...whatever--old people, the disabled, women, migrant workers--and forget to think about what happens once they hit the workplace.

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What is this unspecified religion. I'm having a hard time figuring it out...

They have left it up to the readers to figure it out on their own. In other words, 'playing it safe'. They don't want anyone to point a finger at them.

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I like the cigarette response

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One of the strengths of Japan’s manufacturing industries in the past had been a uniformly standardized work force,” Ozaki points out. “But actually, even among Japanese these days, attitudes toward work have been diversifying.

I think that this statement by Mr. Ozaki underlines the critical issue that everyone else seems to be missing. This article is just indicative of a wider issue, which is that even Japanese workers are waking up to the fact that bonuses are lower now and the rewards for working until midnight, when weighed against the benefits of going out for a beer or going home to watch some TV, are lower.

In the post-war period there was a desperation that drove workers to rebuild Japan simply as a matter of survival, in the bubble economy this work ethic was reinforced by large bonuses for working long hours and doing "whatever the company required". Particularly during the recession workers are looking in their pay packets, doing some mental sums and realising that working insane hours for no extra pay just makes management aware that they can cut 10% of the jobs and still remain operational. People aren't stupid and as pay and bonuses decrease so the value of leisure time becomes more competitive, particularly as stress levels rise.

In the end this isn't about this particular group of workers, but rather about the group of other workers who complain about being bought in to cover for them. In short it's about perceived equality, both in terms of others' working conditions, pay, leisure time, etc. And the bottom line is that Japanese managers are going to need to make some major shifts in both remuneration policies and in terms of how they interact with their workforce or they're going to find themselves in a very difficult position quite soon.

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Don’t they have HR dpt where all these questions, issues etc can be discussed and presented in a form of a contract?

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I can just hear it now: Japanese and or non religious worker to HR dept. " Hey those religious guys get 3 prayer breaks a day" (I picked the number 3 because: yes I am going by the probability of it being a certain religious group that pray 5 times a day but only 3 of those times would be during regular work hours) Answer from the HR: "Hummm, we will need to think on this and talk to the higher ups"!

Now a few days later when it get around that the non religious are asking for the same break time as the religious, Headline news: "religious intolerance in Japanese companies!"

I have lived in Japan for a long time and though I have my issues with many things, when I moved here I knew it was not Christian society and I would not have Christmas or any other days off like I did back home (though in several places I have worked I have been offered it just out of kindness (yes folks Japanese bosses can be kind) but never took it out of respect for my fellow workers), when you move to another country you accept their ways (don't confuse this acceptance with discriminatory practices like service refusal or rental refusal)!

Also to my knowledge most factory workers (with the exception of part time and "haken" worker) are unionized and all worker are paid the going union wages. So unless the foreign workers referred to this article are short term contracted worker they are getting the same pay as all the rest.

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’Since prayer breaks had been agreed upon by the personnel section at the time they were hired’...This is the root of the whole problem. The HR department should have foreseen the reaction of the other employees who would obviously feel cheated, believing that they were getting less break time and therefore working more hours. Not to mention possibly covering for their religious workers when they weren't present.

I think I have to agree with limbo. When in Rome...If every worker claimed to have some religion and thus had to do such and such or couldn't do this or that...what a mess it would be.

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To those who argue about equal working times for the foreign and Japanese staff: these foreigners have special contracts which account for the prayer time. There is no reason to assume they get any preferential treatment.

limbo, almost 40% of all full-time workers are haken in the meantime, so the probability that low-wage foreign workers are unionized is rather small.

If every worker claimed to have some religion and thus had to do such and such or couldn't do this or that...what a mess it would be.

Why that? Have you ever heard about flexibility? Even in production, what this article is talking about, you need an ever increasing level of flexibility to meet diversifying customer demands. It's mostly the same internal processes which you have to change in order to meet your customer's and workforce's flexibility demands.

I wonder whether this guy would have asked his Japanese staff to postpone or skip their lunch break in order to meet the deadline? Probably not, because he understands the importance. Obviously he didn't have the cultural sensitivity to understand how important the prayer is to his employees. Or did he, and not the Japanese employees? The article is not detailed enough. If the latter is the case, then it's time for him to explain it to his Japanese staff.

Last but not least, I'm pretty sure that this particular religion does allow for some flexibility about the praying times as well...

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gonemad; Yes I know about the nearly 40% "haken" work in Japan and therefore it would also be conceivable that many of the Japanese workers are also "Haken" and receiving lower wages!

I think the point here is that many are trying to make it out that the Japanese and other non religious worker are not being fair but in actuality it is the religious workers that chose to make themselves the target of misunderstanding and resentment if we just look at the article and see what accommodation needed to be given it is obvious that these religious workers are not willing to even communicate with the rest not only do they need prayer time but separate eating areas and food.

Hell I can't even get my sons public school to substitute another fruit or meal when they serve things with apples that he is allergic to but they will prepare a special meal for his classmate that is Muslim when they serve pork! In one case the child could die in the other?? What you tell me!!

My daughter hates wearing a skirt but has no choice even on cold winter days but her Pakistani classmate is allowed to wear slacks under her skirt because her father complained that it was offensive to his religious beliefs both children are of mixed heritage but ones get preferential treatment!

These are recipes for resentment and conflict!

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I had to laugh at the "cigarette break" retort. Talk about nailing the bullseye at 100 paces!! Start paying attention to how often and how long your co-worker's "cigarette breaks" take. I think you'll be surprised.

I spent 8 years working for a large conglomerate that had a unionized workforce in the building I worked at. 9:30 am, come hell or high water, they all clocked out for their 15-minute morning coffee break - which was guaranteed them by their union contract. Us salaried employees continued working on what we could while the production floor became a ghost town. The Muslims in this story (does anybody know of any OTHER religion that requires prayer breaks specified times during each day?) are no different than any other "union" work force. They knew this might be an issue and confirmed that management would not have a problem with it beforehand. It is MANAGEMENT'S responsibility to ensure the rest of the workforce is aware of the accomodation and why it cannot be altered based on workload. It sounds like management has failed in this responsibility.

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Key point of the article: "Since prayer breaks had been agreed upon by the personnel section at the time they were hired, the workers were fully within their rights, and the supervisor was left with no resort but to borrow workers from another unit to make his deadline".

Since agreement was made before the hiring, the management has to protect their workers based on this agreement. Cultural sensitivity is important, but if you run a company, the bottom line is productivity and profit. This is how companies survives. If I was running this company, there will be no special agreements but a same fair treatment for everybody. If they don't like it, don't apply for a position. If you work for any major companies in the U.S., such as Ford, Apple, Microsoft, HP, you don't see prayers as a special agreement before hiring.

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Big deal about nothing. Management has nothing to complain about, this is what they signed up for. They don't even sound very competent if all they can do is complain and sow discontent among factions of their own employees. It's no different than unions that have coffee breaks written into their contracts. Tough.

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Zenny - Unfortunately Christians nowadays have very little religious "rights" in comparison to other religions who need to pray several times a day. If you go to the UK you will see it first hand - "Christmas" being changed to Winterfest etc.

But I dont understand why this boss doesn't just fire these people if he cant handle their demands. I say keep religion and work separate. Unless you are a priest of course.

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They will have to conform to established break times or find work elsewhere. They can smoke, drink coffee, pray or whatever, but only in accordance with established breaks.

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djuice at 08:58 AM JST - 15th June. They will have to conform to established break times or find work elsewhere. They can smoke, drink coffee, pray or whatever, but only in accordance with established breaks.

Do you know what contract means? Why should these worker conform to established break time if they prayer breaks had been agreed upon by the personnel section at the time they were hired, the workers were fully within their rights? Company should've said no prayer breaks before hiring. Don't blame on the workers. The company can be sued if they breach this contract.

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Yes. I have always wondered why smokers can have cigarette breaks while others continue working.

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Yes thay are talking about Muslims. I am a Muslim too and living in Japan from last 10 years. It goes like this; Muslims must pray (Salaat) 5 times a day. In non-Muslim countries when a company hires us as a employee at the time of contract we talk about prayer break on Fridays afternoon for Friday prayer (Friday prayers must be done in Mosque only) and the Month of Ramadaan. We ask for extra one hour lunch break time on Fridays to go to Mosque for Friday prayers then we compensate that one hour. Other than Fridays Muslims pray afternoon prayer (Zuhr) in lunch time without disturbing work. I worked in one of the biggest company here for 7 years before resigning and never had any problem for my prayer breaks. I used to pray in conference room of the company usually. My Japanese boss and colleagues were always co-operative in this matter. In fact when I first arrived in Tokyo to join this company my Japanese boss find the nearest Mosque from the company and Halal grocery stores in Tokyo and handed me print out.

‘Today, we have to take care of a customer’s claim by 4 p.m. Can’t you postpone your prayers until the job’s finished?” The contingent’s leader responded, “No, the time can’t be changed.”

He must be talking about Friday prayer and its time can't be changed as every Muslim should must go to Mosque to pray it.

And I found that almost all companies here including companies like Toyota agrees for this prayer break for Muslim employees without any problem. And I didn't find any problem with Japanese related to Muslim prayers or other Muslim rules.

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farhaan; I understand what you are saying and you seem to be quite reasonable in your approach to things.

I owned a business back home and my employees were a great big mix Buddhist, Jews, Christians, Muslims.

My manager was a devout Muslim (son of an Iman) and prayed 5 times a day and no one ever had a problem especially since most of the time the prayer time was quite short.

He had Fridays off Just to make things easier ( at the time I did not work Sundays so he did).

The difference I see here is (at least from this article) my manager (and still a very good friend I would trust with my life) participated socially with the rest of the staff he did not eat lunch separately from the others he did eat his own Halal food (just as some of the S.E.Asians staunch Buddhist were strict vegetarians and some of the Jewish ate Kosher).

It seems to be interpretation of the rules of religion that make for problems, in my home city we have clubs and because of the large African Muslim population they have complete bar sections dedicated to only tisane (herbal tea) soft drinks and coffee (great for me to as I cannot drink alcohol for medical reasons).

All this to say that back home by participating and socializing with the rest the Muslims are accepted and even welcome, but here in this article they seem to have cut themselves off from the rest of the worker thus leading to misunderstandings.

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limbo: Just tell the school that it is against your religion to eat apples and wear skirts!

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@shufu : "Christmas" being changed to Winterfest etc.

This is a perennial urban myth, trotted out year after year, and usually instigated by the Daily Mail, otherwise know as the "Daily Hate".

a uniformly standardized work force

Hello, Japan ? Yeah, I've got the younger generation on the phone, and they said that they are "Maji kireta" and not prepared to work at menial tasks for ¥850 an hour because they are still upset about you blowing their inheritance on dog clothes and Exile DVDs.

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I have no issues with people taking 10-15 mins to go pray as long as they make it up. I feel this way about smokers and once complained to my boss that my coworker is gone every hour for 10 minutes to smoke while I worked and therefore, I should be allowed to leave an hour earlier if this was going to continue. Needless to say, he didn't agree to it so when she went out for a break, I went for a walk. Took him a few weeks to get some balls and end the smoking thing.

Japan(and others) need to lighten up on such BS excuses for their feelings and just confront them - they have issues with working with certain groups of people. I doubt that any of the Japanese complaining about this would complain about their Japanese coworkers going to smoke - and I am sure the smokers waste more working time than those going to prayer.

What DOES piss me off is when Muslims try and use their religion to get out of things but then don't follow the rules - no smoking, no drinking and no fasting during Ramadan. Try visiting Malaysia for diving during Ramadan and see how you get treated - lack of service, people are cranky... but yet, they are the ones hiding in the boat house scarfing their face full of food when they think no one is looking. That type of behavior causes issues for those who do follow through with it all.

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Hey I have my issues with Japan, but everyone keeps looking at just the remark about the smokers, I don't know about this particular work place but most places have now stopped allowing such breaks.

The difference is not smoking and praying it is non communication (at least it seems that way from the information in this article).

I would wager that the smokers actively socialize with their co-workers as from the look of it these religious foreigner don't.

If you separate yourself from others and then do things that they don't understand then you will have problems, plain and simple!

Nothing says that Muslim (if their are that) cannot eat at the same table as non Muslim even less in the same room.

These worker claim that they need special food, that is a given but they also claim they need a separate eating area that is just not so, it seems to me they are just keeping themselves apart from the rest, for whatever reason I don't know.

But if they would just sit down and chat with the rest then maybe the others would ask questions as to why they do certain things and then maybe there would be a little more understanding of the situation.

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" Some of these workers, he goes on, belong to a particular religion (not specified), and in accordance with the tenets of their faith, have arranged to eat special foods and take their meals apart from the other workers. "

Hilarious! Of course, we all know this particular peaceful religion, which must not be specified. And the problems are well known everywhere where this religion has been imported.

Welcome to real world, Japan. If you don´t learn from others´ mistakes, you´ll just have to repeat them.

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I love how they ask if the praying time can be changed...

Try to get a Japanese person to change anything in regards to their culture and their mind explodes.

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Most Muslims I know would have no problem working an 8 1/2 hour day if their daily prayers amounted to a half hour of "downtime" during the workday. They aren't adverse to work, just adamant about adhering to their religion.

This article seems to be about the production manager's problems getting the Japanese employees to understand why the Muslim employees must take these breaks at specified times for specific lengths. Management seems to be OK with the practice (they did approve it beforehand, after all) but it's the "rank and file" Japanese workers that seem to be the problem.

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This is some more BS, sounds like the whale lovers. What is more important in life : a) having a good job you enjoy and making money to survive or

b) having your life dictated to you by some invisible man in the sky and practicing rituals outside the norm (i.e. outside a Muslim country).

for those who chose B, please go back home :)

Fair enough!

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Well, despite the silence about the "religion" in question here, I think we are all intelligent enough to read between the lines to know who which one is being discussed here. However, that being said, I would support their right to prayer whenever they feel the need. Its a basic human right - but then, Japan is not known for its respect for basic huiman rights, is it?

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Under normal circumstances I would think it wonderful for a company or a society to accomodate the religious beliefs and practices of migrant workers. But I don't see that any country has gained by letting more Muslims come in, live and tell everyone else to adjust to them.

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I've faced "This is the Japanese way/Japanese culture" so many times in my home country, often from people who've migrated there- that the whining of the local workers in this article might seem like a farce sometimes. Ironically as a Christian, I can empathise with this mysteriously unknown religion :p It's tough to follow through requirements without rocking the boat but sometimes It's unavoidable. I've worked through Christmas Day and Easter in Japan without complaint, but when faced with a staff drinking party on Good Friday, declined politely without causing a fuss. For other religions it can be a bit tougher because some of their habits are not so easy to keep on the down-low. A bit of understanding is needed all round, and both parties should try as much as they can to avoid conflict or resentment, even if it means balancing prayer time with some free time for the other workers.

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Touchy situation. I can see both sides of the argument. As for the smoke breaks, then are flexible and can postpone them, rather than having to pray at the specific appointed times, so I don't think that's an appropriate comparison.

Management has got to know that these things will continue to need to be dealt with, as Japan needs more and more foreign workers.

And these foreign workers have to know that regardless of their rights and what not, this is bound to cause resentment in the workplace.

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