CANADA: Husky Energy is investigating after three Edmonton Somali Muslims who were fired from a maintenance project in Lloydminster launched a human rights complaint against a contractor over incidents of alleged “Islamophobia.”
CBC (h/t Richard S) Amino Rashid, 24, and two former colleagues who are also Muslim, say they were dismissed after reporting two separate incidents, just days apart. Rashid said two men berated her for wearing an Islamic supremacist headbag and told her to take off her “hoodie.” One of those workers allegedly told her that “there are people who feel uncomfortable” about her headbag.
“I was shocked, because usually in a situation like that you fire the person who was the one who was being the bully,” said Rashid, who works as a safety checker in the oilsands during the summer to cover living costs and student loans at York University in Toronto. “You don’t fire the victim. You don’t fire the person who was trying to stand up for themselves.”
On Tuesday, Rashid and her former co-workers filed complaints with the Alberta Human Rights Commission. They’ve also complained to Husky. But those actions won’t solve their immediate concerns. Rashid fears she could lose her home in Toronto. “Losing this job derailed my life and possibly my future,” she said.
Rashid recalled feeling stunned and hurt when she realized an Islamophobic tirade from a colleague on the other side of the trailer was aimed at her.
“He shouted from the other side of the room ‘Hey you,'” said Rashid, who had been chatting with other colleagues at the time of the incident. “My hijab he referred to it as a hoodie. He said that if he doesn’t get to wear a hoodie then I’m not allowed to wear it either. And I told him it’s not a hoodie, it’s a religious head scarf.” After she reported it, she said the man continued to harass her.
Three days later, she said another worker told her to “take that thing” off her head because “there are people who feel uncomfortable.” She said he became angry when she defended her rights, putting his hand on her shoulder and saying, “this is the way things are done around here.”
“I wanted to just go home and cry,” said Rashid. “For somebody to just be so disrespectful and not even care at all, it’s inhumane.” Rashid and her colleagues confronted Newcart managers about their dismissal and told them they were recording audio of it.
“We’re starting to cut back on people,” said a supervisor on the recording. “It was randomly selected that it turned out to be you (Muslim) guys.” But when Rashid continued to question him, he tried to shut down the meeting. “This conversation’s over. You were eligible for re-employment for the next shutdown but because of how you’re acting now, you’re not.”
Safety issue or Islamophobia?
CBC Rashid’s story has sparked fierce debate online, with many insisting it was a case of Islamophobia or ignorance while others argued it was about safety. “It’s a huge safety issue! No hoodies or baggy clothes that can get caught in machinery,” wrote one person on Facebook.
A long-time oil industry worker who wrote to CBC said “any head covering, hoodie, raincoat hood first had to be fire retardant,” adding the items could also cause a blind spot “and people have been hit [by] moving equipment from this. My question is at what point do you draw a line?”
Rashid said Newcart and Husky told her they had no concerns with her hijab, but on previous projects when other company supervisors did, she wore a ‘fire retardant hoodie’ on top of her hijab, as well as always tucking her head scarf tightly into her coveralls.
She said Newcart and Husky told her they had no concerns with her hijab, but on previous projects when other company supervisors did, she wore a ‘fire retardant hoodie’ on top of her hijab, as well as always tucking her head scarf tightly into her coveralls.