American Airlines CEO Doug Parker says he joined in a Ramadan fast in an effort to empathize with the carrier’s Muslim employees.
“The core of fasting is empathy,” Parker wrote Friday, in a LinkedIn post, quoting from an invitation he received from a Muslim employee group.
“Fasting helps us feel others’ pain, suffering, loneliness, poverty and hunger,” the invitation said. “In a way, it connects us as humans. Refrain from eating and drinking to experience what it’s like for Muslims to fast, and also to step into the shoes of impoverished people.”
The post is the latest in a series of actions by major airlines to show support for popular causes including voting rights, LGBTQ rights and carbon neutrality. By Tuesday, Parker’s post on LinkedIn had attracted 13,353 reactions and 536 comments.
Most were positive, and thanked Parker for showing respect. One, from Egypt said, “I find it awesome that you managed to fast all these long hours when you did not have to.”
However, a subset of comments decried a supposed lack of similar attention to Christian employees. One from Fort Worth said “I wish you had the same recognition and praise for Christian believers in the company. Christians fast regularly for the same reasons. I’ve never seen any special mention or recognition along that line.”
Another subset decried the critical responses. One from New York City said, “I’m disappointed by the toxic comments but as a Christian, heartened by the positive comments from both Muslims and Christians.” Another from a Southwest CSWC 0.0% employee at DFW said, “Unfortunately some people see a positive post on Muslims and think: “Positive post on Muslims I better post a negative reply straight away!”
Parker said he fasted for 15 hours, from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, with no food or drink – not even water. He said he had accepted an invitation from American’s Muslim Employee Business Resource Group, which “invited non-Muslims at American to fast for unity on April 29th. Muslims around the world, including American Airlines team members, fast like this for the entire month of Ramadan.
“I can tell you I was hungry — and really thirsty — by 8:30 at night,” Parker said. “It gave me tremendous respect for our Muslim team members and their commitment to their faith.”
This article originally appeared on Forbes