A Broader View of Discrimination Toward Muslims in the Workplace

Jaya Addin Linando discusses discrimination against Muslims and answers questions about his new paper, “A relational perspective comparison of workplace discrimination toward Muslims in Muslim-minority and Muslim-majority countries,” published in International Journal of Cross Cultural Management.

We often take for granted that discrimination toward Muslims in the workplace is simply due to hatred toward Islam as a religion. In a slightly more elaborated explanation, ones might say that the hatred triggering discrimination is because Muslims are different, creating a notion of in-group vs out-group, as enwrapped in Social Identity Theory.

In fact, the matter of discrimination toward Muslims is much more complicated than that. These are among the initial questions that came across my mind prior to writing my paper:

  • Is it true that all discrimination toward Muslims is simply based on hatred toward Islam?
  • If yes, what factors produce that hatred? If not, what other elements cause discrimination toward Muslims?
  • Does workplace discrimination only stand as a workplace matter, or whether it is also a part of a bigger societal problem? Or does a smaller scope issue – which is individual identity, also contribute to workplace discrimination? If the answer is yes to both questions, how do they interrelate with one another?
  • The papers revealed that discrimination toward Muslims happened not only in Muslim-minority countries but also in Muslim-majority countries… wait, how could a Muslim be discriminated against in a place where they belong to the majority group?
  • Do those ‘discriminations’ toward Muslims in Muslim-majority countries differ from those in Muslim-minority countries?

Puzzled by these questions, I conducted a systematic literature review involving 134 peer-reviewed papers indexed in the Scopus database. I employed a multi-perspective lens to better comprehend the matter. From the study, I found that discrimination toward Muslims bears different patterns in Muslim-minority and Muslim-majority countries.

At the Muslim-minority macro-societal level, discrimination toward Muslims is practiced blatantly, which triggers other blatant discriminations in the smaller scopes: meso-organizational and micro-individual. Nevertheless, in those two smaller scopes, the discrimination is not always blatant, sometimes it is subtly practiced. Meanwhile, in Muslim-majority countries, discrimination restrictedly occurred toward Muslim women and was practiced subtly across all levels.

(Photo: Pexels)

These findings trigger broader discourses. For instance, the way we frequently label individuals onto one single identity on paper, where such an approach deviates the real-life actuality. I also assert that different perspectives may generate totally different –and oftentimes conflicting- understandings. Such as the way most Westerners conclude that Islamic regulations upon their women believers in the workplace (e.g., to wear hijab) as against gender equality, hence triggering workplace discrimination. While from the Islamic perspective, those regulations are for the goodness of Muslim women themselves, and Islam has a different ‘gender equality’ conception from those developed in Western society.

While this paper is only a small piece of brick to complete the big picture of discrimination toward Muslims, I do hope that this paper sparks some inspiration for other scholars. So that more and more papers explore the avenue of discrimination, identity, and everything in between from various viewpoints, in the near future.

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