Ramadan Reflections '13, Day 26: Dogs, Dupattas, and Muslim Standard Time

I looked down at my watch again, for the zillionth time, and wondered why 15 minutes after the start of the supposed event that only a handful of people registered were in their seats. The speaker was waiting with a bemused smile on his face, almost knowingly that this is typical among "our people". Yet for me, after dealing with this issue for a few years, I still cannot wrap my head around it and accept the status quo.

I've come to realize that I don't quite operate on the same time zone as some Calgary Muslims. I operate on Mountain Standard Time...many seem to go with Muslim Standard Time. Despite both having the same 'MST' acronym, they are nowhere close to one another.

Muslim Standard Time is a phenomenon I've observed not only socially and during community events, but also while at work within Muslim populated schools. You plan a parent session to start at 6:00pm, yet you have most people arrive around 6:45pm. The whole event becomes rushed and you end up wrapping up much later than you imagined. Which is OK right, because the organizers and speakers don't have a life, eh?

I was raised with the idea that being late was disrespectful. It also signalled that I had poor time management and organization skills, and that I couldn't accurately plan my day around this timed event. If you know that you're going to take two hours to get ready, then plan those two hours into your day PLUS some more. Dr. Phil (not that he's legit the way he used to be!) suggests that chronic late arrivers have large egos, as they constantly make others wait for them over and over again, and don't think it's a big enough issue to change this habit. There may be some validity in this.

I give people the benefit of the doubt when it comes to lateness since I'm not perfect and have been late myself. I agree that things do come up, weather can have an impact, traffic is unpredictable at times, the outfit doesn't work the way you thought it would, etc. But when it comes down to LARGE scale events where masses of people are asked to arrive at a certain advertised start time, but the event is delayed at least an HOUR later, then I take issue with lateness. It's so darn annoying! Why are the late arrivers wasting our time?

And please, let's not start talking about weddings. I've been to a couple where dinner was served 3 hours into the event, since the bride and groom didn't enter the hall until two hours after everyone was settled. Now when I receive invitations to weddings or other community events, it's hard for me not to raise an eyebrow and wonder if I too should saunter in late and blame it on some unrelated sequence of events. Or give the excuse that my dog ate my dupatta (i.e. the shawl that goes with Pakistani traditional outfits, called shalwar kameez).

I really think that our community needs to be re-trained (a little cognitive-behavioral therapy never hurt anyone!) in order to increase punctuality. Here are a few suggestions I have:

1. Advertise events with a 'doors open' at an earlier time, followed up with an "the event PROMPTLY starts' 15 to 30 minutes after that. And by golly, start the event! By waiting for those late arrivers, you're basically saying "it's OK to be late, we'll wait for you!" Punishment can be helpful in some cases, so let them miss out on the start of the event. Perhaps they'll learn their lesson.

2. We all dig free food at events and Muslims are no exception. Seriously, we've had more parents show up at events when we advertise that there will be food. Hint that the food will be served at the start to dangle that motivation in front of their eyes.

3. Get the speakers to the event ON TIME!! This is directed towards the organizers of events. Nothing is more embarrassing than having the speaker arrive an hour late. Plan for unexpectedness and use common sense. Why the heck are you booking the speaker's hotel so far away from the event venue anyway?

4. Some, not all, Muslim-run events often lack details that are essential. This includes the time and length of intermissions or breaks, where parking is located and how much it costs, transit options, a map of the location, and the all important "event starts promptly at BLANK time". The more information you provide to attendees, the better. For our wedding, I stated that the Nikah was starting at 6:30pm and after this, the hall doors would be locked. I wasn't waiting another minute because someone didn't respect us enough to show up on time. And guess what? Everyone was there, and early at that. Deadlines with a mild threat do work!

I recently posted a Facebook status stating that the only event Muslims are on time for are Taraweeh prayers. While it's a very good sign that our community is *mostly* on time for prayers, we should also be on time for events where people have given much of their efforts into ensuring that things run smoothly. And events that you're attending to benefit from. So if you're not serious about attending an event, don't RSVP in the first place, only to think that it's OK to show up towards the end and delay the rest of us.

And while throwing in an "InshAllah" in response to if you'll be there on time is OK, just ensure that you also do what you need to do (within your power) to make that "yes, InshAllah" come to fruition.

And Allah knows best. 


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