The recent findings of the Women and Equalities committee simply confirms what we have all known for a very long time: that Muslim women are the most economically disadvantaged group in Britain; they are three times more likely than other women to be unemployed or looking for work, and twice as likely to be economically active (looking for work); those who have the same educational qualifications and skills as white Christian women are 71% more likely to be jobless. There’s triple discrimination happening here as a result, on account of us being women, Muslim, and people of colour.
The extensive report claims that women are often side-lined in the workplace and that the hijab has become the source of ‘acceptable discrimination,’ calling for companies to employ a name-blind recruitment policy to avoid discrimination of women applying to jobs. Whilst I am a huge advocate of such an idea, let’s face the reality of things. Anyone can apply for a job but there’s one of two things that will happen: either a straight out rejection, something that has become all too common place in our current economic climate (thanks, Brexit, for knocking the final nail into the coffin on that one!), or that we are to be welcomed to an interview. However, in more instances than I can count, from either myself or my peers, as soon as we are to walk in to the interview, a stony silence will ensue.
Where the focus should be on our skill set and what we can offer to the company/organisation, it instead falls on whether our husbands/fathers will allow us to work extra hours, or if we can work alongside men, or if we plan on having children any time soon. I mean, we’re almost used to it, since our own ex-Prime Minister called us all #TraditionallySubmissive, but seriously, it needs to stop.
All the progress that we have made as a religion, and as women of that religion has slowly been diminished because society makes it acceptable. The report found “that the number of Islamophobic hate crimes have increased by 59% between 2015 and 2016…. These spikes would suggest that Islamophobic attacks are increasing in response to heightened fears around Islamic extremism.”
We know that. Muslim people can’t board a plane without getting kicked off and we tend to avoid standing close to the train platform, in case someone thinks it’s a good time to push us into the way of a moving train.
So what is the solution to this? First and foremost, I agree with the report on several things; that mosques need to actively help their community to find jobs, and to be able to report these issues correctly. One such venue is the TellMAMA national project that supports the victims of anti-Muslim hate and is a public service which also measures and monitors anti-Muslim incidents. Furthermore, the introduction of name-blind recruitment processes would actually help in allowing Muslim women to apply for work without the fear of discrimination.
However, it’s much more than just that. The national narrative needs to be changed too. The government needs to be on board with this. For example, Theresa May’s ‘Prevent’ strategy has done noting but solidify this deep seated fear of Muslims and has made it all the more harder to integrate into society. We try to integrate but instead are treated with suspicion, hatred and as research finds, have been the target of several attacks.
“The government is committed to making Britain a country that works for everyone. We want all people, regardless of their faith or gender to have access to the same opportunities so that they can reach their full potential.”
We pray that this truly is the case, and that those who are in the position of influence take the necessary measures to change this and to give justice and recognition to those of us who are actively seeking to contribute towards society (like the awe-inspiring women mentioned here). We won’t be changing our dress-sense, our ideals and religious values, but we will be actively seeking to boost the economy of our country… if we are given the chance to do so.