Home Sisters Some workplace habits may make Muslims uncomfortable, says MCB report

Some workplace habits may make Muslims uncomfortable, says MCB report

Workplaces should be mindful of cultural variations in handshakes, direct eye contact, and social activities, according to the Muslim Council of Britain.

According to a study on Islamophobia published by the Muslim Council of Britain, employers and employees should be mindful that handshakes, direct eye contact, and socialising in the pub may be difficult for Muslim colleagues.

Workplaces who wish to promote an open community should recognise cultural distinctions, according to the organisation, which represents over 500 Muslim bodies in the UK.

Its report, Defining Islamophobia, recommends that businesses have a variety of social and team-building opportunities for Muslim employees to participate in, increasing the chances of building rapport among staff from various backgrounds.

Employers and employees should be mindful of cultural distinctions surrounding handshaking and direct eye contact – greeting with a hand on the heart, rather than a handshake between genders, is practised in many Muslim cultures and seen as a highly respectful gesture, as is Muslim men lowering their gaze when dealing with women, another marker of utmost reverence and a way of keeping a modest disposition.

Employers should explore how headscarves can be incorporated into dress codes and uniforms, as well as whether flexitime can enable Muslim staff to participate in Friday prayers, according to the report.

Companies should investigate if halal food and vegetarian dishes are available in canteens, as well as how to satisfy demands for leave for Eid festivals and pilgrimages, according to the study. Simple changes to the workday, such as adjusting meeting hours or working over breaks, can be beneficial to Muslim employees during Ramadan.

Dedicated Islamophobia lessons in schools and the recruiting of teachers from minority communities, including Muslims, are among the proposals in the 150-page report. It cites a 2015 survey that showed 31% of young people agreeing to a degree with the assertion “Muslims are taking over England,” saying: “Islamophobic discourse has seemingly become normalised within the hearts and minds of young, school-going children.”

Universities are being encouraged to inspire Muslim students to apply and to promote an inclusive community by offering prayer rooms, for example.

Muslim employees should be allowed to enter trade unions and report Islamophobia.

The report backs the all-party parliamentary committee on British Muslims’ concept of Islamophobia, which has widespread acceptance within Muslim groups and has been accepted by most major political parties, with the exception of the Conservatives.

This definition says: “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”

The report has a segment on what does not involve Islamophobia, which includes critiquing particular rituals such as clothing or religious slaughter of animals without impugning all Muslims, as well as pointing out crimes involving Muslims without impugning all Muslims.

Tensions between the MCB and the government are evident in the report’s conclusions which say: “Given the approach taken on racism by the current government, we are unlikely to see much action taken to tackle Islamophobia, without popular pressure.”

In 2019, the MCB filed a complaint with the Equality and Human Rights Commission against the Conservative Party, and a year later filed a second dossier detailing cases of Islamophobia within the party.

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