Excerpt:

The solemn prayer goes up as the sun sinks into the late-summer horizon. The Muslim on bended knee gives deep reverence to Allah and will, to end more than 13 hours of fasting, take a bite of date and a sip of water.

The meatpacking plant, meanwhile, is a whir of around-the-clock machinery as workers chop and guide steer carcasses along hooks and conveyors. Production lines are no-nonsense places in a volume-oriented industry where profits ride on how fast each animal is slaughtered and packaged.

For a Muslim worker, despite how inhospitable a meatpacking plant is to prayer, the sundown homage must occur each day during Ramadan. Muslims don't eat or drink during daylight hours in the holy month, breaking the fast after sunset prayers.

"Prayer is a lot more crucial in the month of Ramadan," said Nimaan Ali, a Somali and former employee of JBS USA in Greeley. "If you don't pray, you're basically fasting for no reason."

The welter of Islamic faith versus industrial commerce flared at JBS USA last September when about 230 Muslim workers walked off the job for evening prayers. They said they hadn't got word that the company had pushed a previously agreed-to prayer time back 30 minutes. Some workers said supervisors locked them out of bathrooms and stopped them from using drinking fountains.


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