Rising discrimination against Muslims at work

The Takeaway

This story was originally covered by PRI’s The Takeaway. For more, listen to the audio above.

Mohammad Kaleemuddin spent three years driving trucks to help the American war effort in Iraq. Eventually he settled in Houston, Texas, where he began working for a construction company. There, Steven Greenhouse reports for the New York Times that Kaleemuddin was called “Osama,” “al Qaeda,” “Taliban,” and “terrorist” by several co-workers and his supervisor.

Kaleemuddin filed suit with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. His employer, Pace Services, agreed to pay him $61,250 to settle the case.

Discrimination cases like Kaleemuddin’s are on the rise in the United States. There were more than 800 such claims filed last year, up 60 percent over the last 3 years. Though Muslims account for less than 2 percent of the population, some 25 percent of E.E.O.C. discrimination claims are filed by Muslims.

“I sort of look at it as the next chapter in the civil rights history of America,” Arsalan Iftikhar, a Muslim-American international human rights lawyer and founder of themuslimguy.com, told PRI’s The Takeaway. Once, people discriminated against Jews for trying to wear a yarmulke or take off for Jewish holidays. Iftikhar told The Takeaway:

Now what we’re seeing in the post 9-11 age is a new trend in religious accommodation, legal cases revolving around American Muslims. Whether it’s the ability to wear the hijab, keep a beard, or take off for religious holidays.

“It’s not just that people are feeling more willing to stick their neck out and complain,” Greenhouse told The Takeaway. It’s that there is more discrimination going on at work. The economy is down, there are wars going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a lot of Americans are angry and upset. Some of this anger, according to Greenhouse, is being taken out on American Muslims.

These claims are even more notable, because “Muslim workers generally try to keep their head down and try not to protest,” according to Greenhouse. “But when they see things getting worse for them, I think that’s emboldened them… to step forward and bring complaints.”

“The Takeaway” is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what’s ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH. More at thetakeaway.org

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