Denmark’s Ministry of Health contradicts Støjberg over Ramadan claims

There is no sign that employees fasting during Ramadan has any adverse effect on hospitals in Denmark, according to the country’s health ministry.

Denmark’s Ministry of Health contradicts Støjberg over Ramadan claims
People celebrate Eid al-Fitr (the end of Ramadan) in Holstebro, West Jutland in 2011. File photo: Johan Gadegaard/Ritzau Scanpix

Minister for Immigration and Integration Inger Støjberg sparked intense debate last month by suggesting, without the support of any statistics or figures, that Muslims should not work during the Islam holy month of Ramadan, due to safety concerns.

Safety could be compromised by the act of fasting from dawn until dusk in keeping with the religious observation, the minister suggested.

But in a parliamentary response to an official question by Social Democrat spokesperson for immigration Mattias Tesfaye, the Ministry for Health and the Elderly stated that there were no facts that backed up Støjberg’s claim.

“The Ministry is not aware of any Danish evidence-based studies of potential specific productivity-related issues at Danish hospitals in association with the observance of Ramadan,” the Ministry wrote.

In an opinion piece published by newspaper BT in May, Støjberg wrote that “Ramadan gives us practical, safety-related and productivity-related challenges in modern society.”

“On a practical level, it can be dangerous for all of us if a bus driver neither eats nor drinks in the course of a day, just as a person obviously does not perform or produce nearly as well at the factory or hospital if they do not eat or drink during the hours of daytime for a whole month.”

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Minister for Transport Ole Birk Olesen was also unable to support Støjberg’s argument. Though Olesen said a lack of fluids can present an “obvious” problem, there were no signs of problems related to Ramadan, he said.

“I am, however, not aware of any research in this area that has concluded that there is a specific safety issue related to driving buses during Ramadan,” Olsen wrote last week.

Ramadan, Islam's revered month in which Muslims around the world fast from dawn until dusk, began last month and ended at last week.

Religious freedom is provided for by Denmark's constitution.

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