CAIR TO MUSLIMS: Know your rights in the workplace this Ramadan. And this is in addition to all the other Muslim “rights” CAIR demands from every employer:
CAIR An important first step is to familiarize yourself with your rights as an employee, particularly on religious accommodations. To be clear, your employer’s handbook is not the authority regarding workplace accommodation and often employer’s handbooks do not include appropriate guidelines on religious accommodations. Federal and state laws protect religious freedoms in all areas of society including places of work in the US.
If your requests for any religious activity including frequent prayer and iftar (Ramadan) breaks are not accommodated, please contact CAIR immediately. We can help you obtain necessary accommodations quickly and without retaliation, simultaneously, we can additionally ensure that your employer’s policies are consistent with federal and state laws so other Muslim employees do not experience similar issues. We stand ready to assist, Our employment discrimination services are provided at zero cost (Paid for by the Saudis).
Did you know that according to federal law, you’re entitled to your religious practices including prayer, iftar breaks, time off for weekly Friday and Eid prayers, and as well as Hajj (an extra 2-week vacation to Saudi Arabia), regardless of your residential status (even if you are an illegal alien) in the US? Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and particularly section 42 U.S.C § 2000e(j) allows an employee to take time off for “sincerely held beliefs.”
These accommodations include your religious actions including prayers, religious headbags (even if they are prohibited for safety reasons) to be worn in the work place, schedule changes so your break fits into Maghreb time for iftar, and leave for congregational (weekly Friday or Eid) prayers and Hajj. Title VII also strictly prohibits retaliation by employers against employees for asserting their rights to religious accommodations.
FIVE THINGS NEVER TO SAY TO MUSLIM CO-WORKERS
DIVERSITY With Ramadan–the holiest month on the Islamic calendar–beginning, issues of religious accommodation and cultural competency may come up in your workplace. To help you avoid offending Muslim colleagues now and throughout the year, here are five things not to say.
1. “Why can’t Muslims decide when Ramadan starts?
Since the Islamic calendar is lunar, Ramadan is determined by the sighting of the new moon, which varies from year to year. And like other faiths, there are interpretational differences in beliefs. “In America, there are two groups of Muslims: The first believes you can use scientific data to determine when a new moon can be sighted, and thus you can predetermine the month,” says Nadir Shirazi, creator of “The Ramadan Guide for the Workplace.”
The second group, he says, “believes that you must sight the new crescent moon with the naked eye.” So the start/end dates of Ramadan, depending on the practices of Muslims in your workplace, may be different. Providing flexible hours and allowing floating holidays will permit employees of Islamic and other faiths to celebrate their holidays without using all their vacation time.
2. “Why can’t you eat today?”
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast during daytime hours, so scheduling office parties, fall festivals and luncheon meetings at that time “puts a Muslim coworker on the spot [and] can be embarrassing for both parties,” explains Shirazi.
Education and consideration are key. “The ideal thing is don’t schedule office parties during these times,” says Niham Awad, founding member of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest civil-liberties organization for American Muslims, based in Washington, D.C. “The least thing employers can do is don’t force employees to attend these parties, with all the food and drink, while fasting.”
If possible, don’t eat anything when Muslim employees are in the room, even the lunchroom. If you have to eat, try not to eat any pork products, especially if they have a strong smell.
3. “But you don’t look/dress like a Muslim.” (But often they smell like one)
With an estimated 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide, to think all look and dress similarly is a stereotype. “All Muslims do not have long beards or wear white robes or hijabs,” explains Imam Hamad Ahmad Chebli of the Islamic Society of Central Jersey (ISCJ), a nonprofit religious, charitable and educational organization in South Brunswick, N.J. “That’s the image people see on CNN.” In reality, Islam principle specifically states that there’s no compulsion in faith. Conversely, asking a Muslim woman why she doesn’t cover her body in a black niqab or drapery is equally inappropriate. “Islam is very much a personal and private religion,” says Afia Mirza, a DiversityInc intern who is Muslim.
4. “I didn’t know you were Arab.”
This is another culturally insensitive comment. The reason: Only about 20 percent of Muslims worldwide are Middle Eastern. “Muslims are Black. Muslims are white. Muslims are senators … they’re in the White House (OVAL OFFICE),” says Chebli. According to The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, three senior leaders in the U.S. government who are Muslim include at least 6 Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated staff members: Dalia Mogahed, senior analyst and executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies; Ebrahim “Eboo” Patel, founder and executive director of Interfaith Youth Core [Mogahed and Patel are on the Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships]; and Hamas-supporter Rep. Keith Ellison, (D-MN)
5. “Why can’t you pray on your coffee break?”
Depending on the times allowed for office breaks, this comment can violate religious rights. That’s because “Muslim prayer must be done within specific time frames,” says Awad, adding that the second and third prayers are during business hours. What’s more, Muslim prayer involves standing up and bowing on the floor, which can be awkward to perform in the workplace. It’s also preferred that prayer be done in a group.
Progressive companies will designate a private room or other facility for group prayer. On Fridays, when Muslims are obligated to pray in mosques and not in the office, “companies must give an extended lunch hour,” explains Awad. Companies such as Ford Motor Co., No. 44 in The 2010 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity�®, are involving their interfaith-based employee-resource group to help give members space to share experiences and ideas of religious accommodation.
“These are not only constitutional issues,” says Awad, “but when you have a friendly work environment, you will have better performing and more loyal employees.” (And if Muslim employeess don’t get their way, CAIR will sue your ass)