In our land of the free and home of the brave, we are a mixture of diverse cultures, languages, colors, and faiths. As an employee of any organization The Civil Rights Act of 1964 affords workers the freedom to practice and be provided with certain rights based on their religious beliefs as long as the accommodations do not cause undue hardship upon the business itself. These beliefs can span from providing a place for daily prayers, allowing employees to attend their religious services, or observing certain religious attire. Although, we as citizens have the right to practice our religion freely, the question still remains, Do employees feel they can request certain accommodations that befit their religious practices without subliminal or outright retaliation?
As a Muslim woman and former employee within corporate America, I was afforded the right to attend weekly prayer services and was given a flexible schedule during my holidays, but there was always that sense of subliminal discrimination. There was that quiet and not so quiet concern with my religious attire and the fact that I was in a highly visible, client-facing position that raised eyebrows. I went through a phase in my life and while being a corporate employee when I did not observe my hijab (religious head scarf); which conjured personal conflict within myself. As for my employer and clients, once they got past my hijab they were content with my work and interactions. It was the whispering and finger-pointing amongst my co-workers, the verbal concerns expressed by my leaders, and the clients who outright refused to conduct business with me while I outwardly displayed my beliefs through my dress, that became debilitating. I felt like I was slowly suffocating in a world that didn’t know how to embrace me.
Now, as a Boss Muslimah entrepreneur, transformational coach and leader in my own right I look back at those days not as victim, but as a woman who had to tread that path in order to become the woman I am today! A woman who stands firm in my Islam. A woman who is not moved or swayed by the insecurities of others. A woman who has finally found her voice and is relentlessly embarking on helping other muslim women find theirs as well. My advice to anyone who has gone through what I have or feels weary in observing their religious beliefs at work, I encourage you to exercise your rights to the fullest in the workplace and in your lives as a whole. To work to form committees within your organization that work to end cultural and religious discrimination and intolerance in the workplace. There is no greater gift you can give yourself and the world than living one that is authentically and unapologetically in HD!
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Gabriel Grove is a self-published author, poetess, and contributing writer for The Boss Muslimah-Preneur blog and other blogs, thriving on a journey of using her words to express her thoughts in the most authentic and unapologetic way she knows how.