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I have a (very nice and professional) colleague who is from the same religion as me, we are the only two from our religion in the department and that maybe explains why he would enjoy me being his company and would like me to practice the religion with him.

We come from the same origins, same native language & accent, same race.. etc. However, the problem is that I am not religious, at least not as much as he is. For ex: I do not pray on time, and I do not visit the mosque.. etc.

Usually, on Fridays, he approaches me and invites me to go to the mosque with him to do the Friday Practices (equivalent to Church's Sunday Practices for Christians).

The workplace has no problem with employees going for their religious activities, and this colleague never showed attitude if he knew I did not pray that day, or attend that Friday.. etc.

With that being said, he invites me every Friday to go with him. Even that I am not into going, every time he invites me I feel embarrassed I am not "doing the right thing" so I end up going with him. It seems like he is "killing me with being nice".

How can I stop this from happening, without telling him no or/and look like I am the "bad guy"?

EDIT:

Adding what @LawrencePayne pointed out: It is considered, at least in our culture, impolite to NOT invite your Muslim peer to the prayer.

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    We can probably answer this question here, but I think you might get better responses over at Interpersonal Skills. – David K Jun 11 '18 at 14:24
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    @DanK, you would be absolutely right if me and my colleague were not from the same culture, origin.. etc. For this fact, it is considered IMpolite to NOT invite. Yes Religion should not be part of the workplace, but culture can not be left back at home. See Edit part in my OP. – Sandra K Jun 12 '18 at 16:32
  • @Sandra The cultural element is understandable for the first invite. Maybe even the second depending on how you turned him down the first time. But after refusing multiple times, the behavior needs to end. Sharing the same home country doesn't give this individual carte blanche rights to ignore professional behavior. – DanK Jun 13 '18 at 14:31
  • @DanK "But after refusing multiple times", I have not refused anytime yet. I was looking here for the most appropriate way to do so. If he did not stop, which I doubt, then that would be another issue and I would post a new question. – Sandra K Jun 13 '18 at 15:17
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Another not-so-religious Muslim here based in the United States.

I am sometimes in exactly the same position as you are. I am not very religious but I know plenty of people with varying degrees of practicing Islam. Sometimes one can be "stuck" with someone and it is hard to say no without "looking bad". There is no easy solution but the easiest solution that I have found is simply to say

Sorry, I have got some work to do so I won't be able to go today.

That's it. No explanations and no further comments are needed nor required. If the person repeats or asks for a clarification/explanation, then I would just repeat the same thing with a little bit more emphasis.

No, I just have a lot of work to do, a bunch of things to do so I won't be able to go.

This is at work so this excuse works well. Say this politely with a smile on your face with an appropriate tone of voice. Don't have an angry, annoyed, or a confused look on your face. If he is as reasonable as you say he is then after repeating this a couple of times I am sure that he will simply stop asking you.

One thing I want to warn you about (which some answers/comments here already include) is NOT to offer a rationale, a specific reason, or an explanation because that may draw an argument from him. You don't owe him an explanation so just don't give him one.


I think there is a big (muslim) cultural component missing here in the various answers provided. Pressure from someone a-bit-more-zealous-than-you can be immense even in a few words, especially if it is someone you see almost everyday and you two know each other reasonably well. Even if the other party has no intention of pressuring you, pressure can mount quickly. Moreover, depending on the actual ethnic background of the OP and his office mate, I can guarantee that there is another (local/regional) cultural component. The fear of losing face, being shunned from the group, or even just the reputation in the group (being the subject of gossip) can be very real and may be very undesirable by the OP.

This is why solutions provided in other answers here will not work and will have consequences very different than what the OP wants. I won't downvote any answers but I won't upvote any either. These answers are perfectly fine for other situations in other contexts but for the OP's situation, I know these won't work.

Furthermore, just for context, this is the last week of Ramadan, in which Muslims are expected to do lots and lots of very Muslim-y things and pray super extra hard. So yeah, trust me when I say eyebrows will be raised for being honest and blunt.

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    Pressure from 'peers' is a factor in other religions, not only muslim people experience it. +1 to raise the topic. – Paolo Jun 11 '18 at 22:19
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    +1 because you speak as someone of the same faith and in a work context. That said, I still always recommend aiming for as much direct and honest communication as possible while being as respectful as possible. But given the cultural differences here, and your own experiences, I think your answer may be the most relevant to the OP. – Bloodgain Jun 11 '18 at 22:32
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    Cultural differences are fine, but I don't think lying that you won't go because you have work to do will do it. It also calls for arguments and it is not the honest answer. In your explanation it only works because you are insisting. You might just say I won't go because I love potatoes and repeat every time you're asked and this would stay the same answer… – Pierre Arlaud Jun 12 '18 at 8:03
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    A little confused. You say: 'don't offer a rationale, specific reason or explanation', but your suggestions contain one - namely that your workload is the reason preventing your attendance. – mcalex Jun 12 '18 at 8:26
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    It feels like this isn't really a permanent solution. Or are you suggesting to just refuse every week until they give up and stop inviting? – Tim B Jun 12 '18 at 12:42
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Even that I am not into going, every time he invites me I feel embarrassed I am not "doing the right thing" so I end up going with him. It seems like he is "killing me with being nice".

How can I stop this from happening, without telling him no or/and look like I am the "bad guy"?

Clearly you are sending the wrong message by going with him. If you don't want to go, this has to stop. Be polite, but firm.

Simply saying something like "Sorry but I am not as religious as you are. I do not pray on time, and I do not visit the mosque. I appreciate your asking, but I really have to say no." should do the trick.

You may need to decline a few weeks before he will stop asking.

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    You're right about sending the wrong message. I might suggest that the "should do the trick" part should be omitted. Sandra, you do not owe him an explanation. Practically-speaking, especially in a religious context, these excuses tend to provide ammunition for "Well here's your chance to start!" leading to further argumentation, even if the base intent of the invitation is simply to be polite and inclusive. – msanford Jun 11 '18 at 16:53
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    @msanford the "should do the trick" if after the quote. Isn't part of the what Joe suggest OP to said. – Juan Carlos Oropeza Jun 12 '18 at 1:51
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    @JuanCarlosOropeza I believe msanford meant the whole paragraph ending with the "should do the trick" – Erbureth says Reinstate Monica Jun 12 '18 at 9:07
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    This would be the best for a nuclear way. This would definitely affect my relationship with the colleague negatively. – Sandra K Jun 12 '18 at 18:26
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With that being said, he invites me every Friday to go with him. Even that I am not into going, every time he invites me I feel embarrassed I am not "doing the right thing" so I end up going with him. It seems like he is "killing me with being nice".

This requires assertiveness.

To be assertive, you listen to what the other is saying, then you say it back to them followed by how it makes us feel. You then keep giving the same response like a broken record.

Him: "Would you like to come with me this weekend?"
You: "Thanks for inviting me, but this makes me feel uncomfortable and so I'm not going".

Him: "But you went last week? Why not come this week?"
You: "Yes, I did go last week, but this makes me feel uncomfortable and so I'm not going".

Him: "What can I do to make this more comfortable for you?"
You: "Thanks for wanting to make it more comfortable, but I'm not going".

You need to keep repeating what he says so he knows you hear him, share how it makes you feel and assert what you want.

He will stop when presented with a broken record that keeps repeating, but sometimes people get frustrated the first time a person does this. That frustration comes from their past experience of getting what they want and now they can't.

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    Repeating oneself like this may be effective in getting him to stop, but it's also likely to come across as rude and/or condescending. If you make the second response something like "I mostly went to be polite", that should be sufficient for any decent guy (and not much less effective for guys who aren't decent). – Dukeling Jun 11 '18 at 15:48
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    @Dukeling true, and I think it's better to read a book on assertiveness than to just attempt it yourself for the first time from a simple answer on the internet. – user7360 Jun 11 '18 at 15:51
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    How would you recommend responding if he says something like "What do you mean? Why does it make you uncomfortable?" – Dukeling Jun 11 '18 at 15:55
  • @Dukeling I think that's a good thing. It allows you to express how it makes you feel so that the other person understands, and then you repeat what you want. Which is to stop going. The key here is to not allow the other person to control how you feel. For example; they will often try to make you feel guilty for not going. To which you can see, "I'm sorry this upsets you, but I don't want to go". I think the books discuss the power other people have over you by controlling your feelings and using guilt. That's a bigger topic than my answer. – user7360 Jun 11 '18 at 15:59
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I think the best approach is to be blunt and honest. Start by saying you appreciate him inviting you but you are not as religious. Say you only went before because you did not go in a while and you wish to go there sometimes, not each week.

I think that approach is best as it is direct, honest, and sincere. He really can't argue and you won't come across as rude.

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Even when I am not into it, I join him just because I feel embarrassed I am not "doing the right thing"

Your choices are:

  • Get a new job so you don't see this guy.
  • Get over your embarrassment, and say "not today thanks" - repeatedly.
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    Unsure why this is getting downvoted? It sounds like a reasonable answer because the OP is trying to figure out how to say nothing but somehow make the problem disappear. Only way for that to happen is by leaving or being honest about the situation. – Dan Jun 11 '18 at 17:28
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    I didn't downvote this, but primarily suggesting that he leave his job to solve this problem sounds a lot like the nuclear option; it's overkill and not constructive for this situation. – panoptical Jun 11 '18 at 17:49
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    Adding to @panoptical, and there is no guarantee the problem will be solved if I leave. What if I found 5 religious colleagues in a new job :D – Sandra K Jun 11 '18 at 17:57
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    @MartinBonner If it's not the solution you would recommend, then don't include it. Sarcasm doesn't read well here, so always add explanation to anything you don't want the reader to take seriously. Aside from that, see this: Is 'Quit your job' an acceptable answer? – David K Jun 11 '18 at 20:04
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    @DavidK - It's the not solution I would recommend, but that doesn't mean I don't accept it is the right solution for some people. As such I think it is appropriate to put it out as an option. – Martin Bonner supports Monica Jun 11 '18 at 20:25
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It is possible that he feels it would be impolite to NOT invite you to join him at prayer. Particularly as you have a history of accepting the invitation!

If you don't want to go, a polite 'Not this week, thank-you' will suffice. If he asks for an explaination, you could say 'I'm not really that religious, I only came to please you. I hope this won't spoil our friendship'.

  • As the OP, I agree that it is pre-assumed that it is impolite to NOT invite me, as muslim peers it is considered "nice" to invite each other. +1 – Sandra K Jun 12 '18 at 14:38

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