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Religion, Discrimination and Racism

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 5402 words Published: 16th Jul 2019

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Discrimination “is to treat a person or particular group of people differently, especially in a worse way from the way in which you treat other people, because of their skin colour, religion, sex, etc.” On the other hand, racism is “the belief that people’s qualities are influenced by their race and that the members of other races are not as good as the members of your own, or the resulting unfair treatment of members of other races.”

Religion, and according to the Cambridge Dictionaries is “the belief in and worship of a god or gods, or any such system of belief and worship, and/or an activity which someone is extremely enthusiastic about and does regularly.”

The definitions above explain the ideas of discrimination, racism and religion in general, while in this project, I will be discussing and explaining these two issues but in a specific way, which is relating these issues to employment and the workplaces. As we all know, the idea of discrimination and racism is not that new, and was clear to all of those who lived abroad no matter how long it was.

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The main aim of this project is to illustrate and explain the organisational approaches towards managing diversity: the case of migrant Muslim workers in the United Kingdom in specific. This case could be viewed from different perspectives; however what we are concerned about in this thesis is looking at this situation from the employers/managers perspectives, taking into account the positive and negative points for this case.

A suggestion that discrimination exists within different workplaces is not new in the United Kingdom, and was first brought to the surface in the early 1850’s when a number of Muslims has migrated to the United Kingdom seeking for job opportunities in order to survive. Unfortunately, the situation turned out to be disadvantageous to these workers as they were treated in an extremely unwelcoming way working as seamen on the British coasts and were accommodated in refugee camps where they were harassed and exposed to a lot of unfair treatment.

As this issue became more and more controversial, this meant that its existence became commonplace. To find a solution for this, the British government announced that such actions were described as illegal practices according to the law which came out on the 2nd December 2003. This new law is welcomed as being an important step for the development of religious communities and religious understandings in Britain.

Many laws preceded the introduction of this law; therefore we can understand that the British government has taken these issues into consideration and trying to decrease their practices, since there are approximately 1.6 million Muslims in the United Kingdom in which they form the country’s largest religious minority who come from diverse ethnic backgrounds

However, there is a lack of understanding, resulting in unfair discrimination in employment, which is an unfortunate reality for many Muslims in the United Kingdom. Although equality laws have been in place to protect individuals from discrimination in employment for almost thirty years, these have not reflected the multi-faith character of British society. This is because the equality laws came out to protect the employees on the grounds of colour, nationality, race and ethnic origin, not on the grounds of religion or belief.

A major starting point in this essay is pin-pointing the issues that are observed at the workplace by the employers/managers, and also the employees around and how they should react in order to prevent these situations from occurring or happening in the future. Preventing these issues is not only for future use, but the employers/managers should take them into account in order to protect their employees as well. The main issue that this project will cover are as follows:

  • Direct discrimination
  • Indirect discrimination
  • Harassment
  • Victimisation
  • Government policies, laws, and regulations

Take into account that I will be discussing the negative and positive sides of these issues.

This project will also concentrate on the scope of the religion or belief regulations, in which I will be discussing that protection, should be before an employment relationship has been created. Then continues throughout the working period, and last but not least, after the working period has ended, for referencing purposes and certificates. For this case, some areas must be covered in order to protect the employees and prevent problems and cases against the organisations, and these areas are: recruitment, pay, terms and conditions, training, transfer, promotion, dismissal, and finally, references.

The project is divided into sections in order to come up with the best results for these issues. A schedule has been set for all the work in order to keep all the work up to date with a methodology in order to keep all the work together and not to miss any part that could be very important in this project, which will also help in managing and dividing the whole project into sections which makes each part a different section with the right information in. A research has been carried out using the internet as a main source for literature research in order to get journals, articles, case studies on this topic. After finding the correct data from the research, summaries and analysis has been made in order to keep on moving on the right track.


The main aim of this project is to identify the organisational approaches towards managing diversity for the case of migrant Muslim workers in the United Kingdom. This topic in particular involves more than an issue. Therefore, I will be identifying and discussing these issues through internet (literature) research through the internet by looking for journals, articles, and case studies on these issues.

For the cases of racism and discrimination at the workplace, we find that there are issues under these two cases that the employers/managers practice and observe at the workplace. This could be at the early stages of recruitment and selection, continue through the contracting period which is known as the working period for the employee (contract), and could also be or happen when employees leave the workplace, in other words after they retire or change jobs.

After conducting the literature research, I found that the main causes are known as

  • Direct discrimination
  • Indirect discrimination
  • Harassment
  • Victimisation

Diversity management is considered to be one of the important approaches that are needed in every organisation with employees that come from different ethnic backgrounds and especially those who believe in certain religions. This project will focus on this approach in order to illustrate and identify how the UK organisation practice such an approach baring in mind that it can be used or practiced in both ways, positively and negatively.

Each of the above is going to be discussed and explained in details in the next stages of this project.

Real-life examples and case studies are an essential part of this project as they identify some of the organisations in the UK that take into account diversity management and apply policies that will be helpful to its employees in order to prevent discrimination, harassments and victimisation on the grounds of religion or belief. Unfortunately, there are organisations that do not take religion into consideration, and all what they are concerned about is achieving their aims and objectives. Therefore, this project includes examples and case studies identifying these organisations and how they practice such issues.

What has been defined as “Anti-Islam” phenomena in the United Kingdom nowadays is not something recent as it goes back to more than 150 years, when a number of Muslims migrated to the UK in which some worked in the ports as seamen , while the rest were located in the Midlands and mainly in Birmingham and around London. However, those Muslims migrants were faced with too many negative issues against them such as racism and discrimination. For example, those Muslims who worked in the seaside found themselves compelled to struggle for survival when insufficiency of employment could set British seamen in opposition to their Muslim counterparts, since these Muslim migrants “were herded into close-knit slum areas around the docks, with a colour bar in jobs and housing that tended to keep them from integrating with the local population.”

Such discrimination is still going on until these days, but taking different forms as a result of the implementation of new laws and regulations seeking some sort of protection against discriminations on the grounds of religion or belief in employment and career trainings. Such protection was previously lacking, causing unfair treatments, which is the reality especially for Muslims and many faith communities. Such regulations came in-force on the “2nd of December 2003 and were considered as a welcome development for religious communities in the United Kingdom.”

The fact that Islam is being a comprehensive way of life should be very well-known by employees in the UK and that flexibility and reasonable accommodation at work, will not only allow Muslim employees to observe their religious obligations, but also improves their productivity and general performance at the workplace.

Nobody can ignore the fact that there are “1.6 million Muslims in the UK” who migrated mainly from North, Central and East Africa, The Middle East, Eastern Europe, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and last but not least Pakistan. In addition to that, there is a considerable number of “white British” and “African-Caribbean” who also converted to Islam that are also treated in the same way as other Muslims that are identified as migrants by the local British people.

Although most of the Muslims that migrated to UK were considered as “economic migrants,” they are now involved in trade, science, and various professions at all levels, enriching the British society with additional cultures and contributing in a positive way towards the UK’s economy.

Although fairness and equality laws have been implemented in order to care for those who face discrimination, yet theses laws have not changed or reflected the “multi-faith character” of the British society. There has been an implementation of laws to protect on the grounds colour, nationality, race, and ethnic origin, but not on the grounds of belief matter or religious backgrounds. This has maintained a short of understanding that also resulted in un-equal treatments, and especially in the process of employment which became the unfortunate truth for these migrants that keep them unsure about their employment future and also affects their contribution towards productivity, efficiency and work loyalty.

The main aim of the laws and regulations is to form a balance between the religious needs of individuals in employment and training and the needs of public bodies, businesses and organisations. That’s why the introduction of the “Employment Equality Regulations 2003” on the grounds of religion or belief, has been implemented and to be considered as the first step to prevent discrimination at the workplace. This recognises both, that the religion is a central feature of ones character or personality and last but not least, that discrimination and racism on these grounds is considered as offensive and therefore rejected.

These regulations need to be re-examined and adjusted constantly, enabling them to go well with the British society, and improve relations between employers/managers and employees/workers who certainly need sufficient protection against racism and discrimination that makes them feel more secured in their employment and enables them to increase productivity that reflects better economic results for their employers and themselves in terms of improving their living standards.

Two core forms of discrimination:

  • Direct Discrimination: it is too difficult and even unacceptable for a person to find himself/herself mistreated on the grounds of religion or belief, double standards are applicable on people who are recognised to believe or not believe in a certain religion or belief, people are associated with someone who believes or does not believe in a particular religion or belief, and/or refuse to follow particular instructions to discriminate against an individual of a certain religion or belief.

Forms of behaviours or actions in this perspective are:

  • The negative response to interviewing and employing
  • Putting forward unpleasant and difficult terms and conditions
  • The rejection of training
  • Setting up pay variations between employees
  • Dismissing promotions
  • Dismissal
  • Denying to give references
  • Giving poor references
  • Indirect Discrimination:

Harassment: it is too severe for a person to be subjected to undesired behaviour on the ground of his own religion which could lead to violation of dignity or creating an offensive and antagonistic environment for him/her.

There are decent ways to prevent harassment between employees such as, but, not limited to: implementing a harassment policy, providing constant training to staff towards this issue and how it affect human relations, handling harassment issues appropriately when they come to pass in any of the workplaces, and apply certain punishment measures against employees that do not follow the policies or take the laws and regulations into consideration.

Victimisation: it is too hard to treat people harmlessly when they show resistance to discrimination or harassment by making a complaint or show intention of making a complaint or resisting others to make a complaint whether these complaints are formally made to management or by passing information to the management in support of such complaints.

The law that came under the name of “Genuine Occupational Requirements (GOR)” states that “it is lawful for any employer to treat people differently on the grounds of religion or belief where it is a genuine and determining occupational requirements for an employee to be of a particular religion or belief” made the discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief not always unlawful. Saying this, it must be of a vital importance for the person to be related to a particular religion or belief to carry on the duties of his job and the religion must be crucial to that job.

The GOR must be clearly spotted out prior to advertising for a job vacancy and should be illustrated and identified at the early stages of recruitment and selection, and in training and promotion as well. When an organisation is made up of individuals with the same religion or belief, this has to be known to employers as well because organisations should not rely upon the organisational GOR exception if they do not accept the principle to employ an individual who did not share the same religion or belief.

Such discrimination could be exceptionally classified as lawful being positive but only if employers clearly justify the positive action in any and all advertisements including the workplace in order to avoid this to be misunderstood and taken into account as discriminatory.

The employers must be aware that regulations apply through all stages of employment, at the early stages of recruitment and selection processes, the employment relationships, training and promotion, and even at the late stages which is after the contracting period ends, and also that there is no reason for them not to be aware of the absolute necessity for them to know these regulations. Within this perspective, the employers are asked or instructed to advertise in a form that is clearly understandable to all those who are looking for jobs. They are also asked to clearly identify dates, times and places of interviews to suit individuals on the grounds of religion or belief.

Employers should avoid conducting interviews or events which could be part of the recruitment process where alcohol is served since alcohol is forbidden or banned on the basis of some applicants’ religion or belief such as Muslims. The employers also must take into consideration applicants with certain or specific dietary requirements on the basis of religion or belief and that the served food must be identified and labelled with certain marks such as “halal” and ensure that there is availability of substitutes if necessary such as vegetarian food which can be served separately.

Employers must ensure that the job is clearly described and identified to all applicants during the interviews and respect traditions and cultures of the applicants by avoid asking questions about religion, be aware of certain routine while conducting the interviews by avoiding things that may cause problems with applicants from certain backgrounds or religious beliefs such as shaking hands with Muslim women (applicants). They should also respect other religions when designing or giving the uniform to the employees, and also accept religious uniforms such as “hijab” in Islam, and to ensure that no single woman should be excluded because she dresses according to her religion

Employers should put restrictions on applicants on the basis of skills, education, and experience at work, and should not put any restrictions on the grounds of religion and belief if they do not affect the organisation and/or the type of the organisation’s performance, aims and objectives. Employers should avoid progress in careers based on religion and understand that promotion in the business career has to be on the grounds of job loyalty, ability and hard work rather than religious dimensions.

In this part of the project I will be concentrating on the standards with regards to steps that employers can take to accommodate Muslim employees.

Employers being very keen to achieve their ultimate to run successful and profitable organisations should pay maximum attention and care to their employees including behaviour at work, and very essential to know staff make-up, level of satisfaction by monitoring the performance of their employees on the basis of their religion together with other basis and staff attitude surveys. Such information should be used under data protection laws only in order to improve religion presentations and those employees to be certainly ensured that such data of information shall never be used against them at any stage of employment.

Employers have to understand and appreciate religion certain needs even during the working hours, such as general appearance, fasting, prayers, leave, dietary requirements, and last but not least the social interaction.

Employers must ensure a healthy working environment by giving all staff members equal opportunities when it comes to promotion and training far from religious considerations, and also ensure that the business atmosphere does not involve harassments and victimisations on the basis of religion or belief.

Employers must make it very clear to their staff members that employees have to be acquainted with the essential requirements of behaviour and mutual respect, and also that they should be trained to understand and appreciate that discrimination, harassment or victimisation on the basis of religion or belief is totally rejected by the management and/or employers. Moreover, the employees should also avoid exercising such behaviours in the workplace. Training should also be given on particular religions within the workplace in order to remove stereotypical views that could lead to discrimination, harassments and/or victimisations.

The structure of the staff members is subject to changes, therefore employees should be updated with these changes and it is necessary that they are adequately trained for such changes in order to understand the working environment and react positively towards these changes.

Diversity Management:

The idea of discrimination and racism at the workplace is not limited to its existence in the UK only, however evidence shows that it also spreads across the European Union. Due to illustrative reasons, I will be focusing on diversity management as an approach in combating discrimination and racism at the workplace in the UK and the EU.

Different European employers nowadays are showing increasing intent in working towards developing a “good practice” in order to combat racial and ethnic discrimination in the general European employment context. This is based on findings of which demonstrate a general widespread of discrimination across EU Member States during the 1990’s and a general increase in campaigns and awareness rising in Europe. The initiatives taken by these states can be shown by the 1997 European Year Against Racism. Although there is evidence that the EU has taken a step forward managing diversity at the workplace, research shows that the foreign “well qualified and fluent young people still disproportionately excluded from the employment opportunities they deserve because of straightforward racism, prejudice and discrimination related to the colour, ethnic or religious background, or a different sounding name” (Zegers de Beijl 2000). “Research has also shown that ethnic minority workers regularly experience problems once they have a job, such as less access to opportunities for promotion, training or higher pay, or verbal or physical harassment”(Wrench et al. 1991)

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Recently, new evidence came to the surface in relation to a number of exercises at both national and general European levels which draw attention to examples of organisational case studies which can be utilised as examples of good practice for others in fighting racism and discrimination in employment. It was in 2003 that a two new European Union Equality Directives were introduced. The Council Directives 2000/43/EC1 (“Racial Equality” Directive) and 2000/78/EC (Employment Equality Directive), which had to be reflected in national arrangements and legislation by July 19th and December 2nd of 2003 respectively. Due to European Union Supremacy, such directives bind member states to incorporate such legislation into their national laws. This gives the chance for member states to improve the existing legislation in relation to employment. It also obliges these states to create official bodies to advise and give aid to victims of discrimination. Recently, the have been several implementations of projects and initiatives which were in line with such an idea and having the European Social Fund (ESF) Equal Initiatives in mind. Such project focus on a range of different areas; for example, providing language or vocational training courses to vulnerable groups amongst migrants and minorities, involving social partners and other labour market actors in projects fighting and preventing racism at the workplace, improving codes of conduct in anti-discrimination, or stimulating job creation for specific minority groups.

Diversity management is one that furnishes the possibility of integrating anti-discrimination and equality practices and ideology into European companies in a business friendly manner. Such an approach is seen to be characteristically different from the other employment equality approaches that are directed at under – represented minority groups, such examples are the equal opportunity and affirmative action approaches. Diversity management is mainly concerned about improving the organisational efficiency and competitiveness influenced by the market advantage and the business purpose. Moreover, it highlights the importance of shedding-light on the issue of cultural differences among the groups of the employees, and offering practical solutions and allowances for such differences in organisational policies.

The main idea of diversity management is to furnish for the existence of an environment of cultural diversity at the workplace in which the cultural differences are accepted. This is seen as something which motivates the migrant employees and gives them the opportunity to work in a more efficient, creative and productive environment. This positivist approach, however which is taken by diversity management is seen as taking a step forward in complying with anti-discrimination laws which will eventually lead to a healthier atmosphere and environment at the workplace.

As mentioned earlier, diversity management is not the only approach for fighting or combating discrimination and racism at the workplace. Studies show that there are more factors which need to be taken into consideration amongst with diversity management. .

Such factors are:

Training the immigrants:

This idea is directly related to immigrants and ethnic minorities who need aid to adapt to new conditions in their new environment. Formal training is an essential task here as it offers immigrants to improve their educational skills, language, culture, and customs and helps them also in finding jobs in the new labour market to which they aspire to be part of.

Making cultural allowances:

In this respect, allowances are made for certain exceptional groups who come from different cultures and backgrounds. Here, they are given the opportunity for the recognition of their own religious restrictions on diet, dress, holidays and any other special needs.

Challenging racist attitudes

This idea is in relation to the idea of change at the workplace. It is claimed that the main obstacles to change are the attitudes and prejudices of people. To unify the attitude of the people in the host country towards those minorities, publicity and information campaigns in addition to training in different aspects are involved.

Combating discrimination

This follows from the previous point, in the sense that at this level, these changes must produce results in practical life as peoples’ behaviour changes due to changes in attitudes. Training to a new system of their recruitment and selection procedures at the same time complying with anti-discrimination clauses in legislation. Areas covered could include, anti-harassment policies, introduction of disciplinary against such violations.

Equal opportunities policies with positive actions:

Here, a combination of the above approaches is used in a “general equal opportunities package”. The existence of an equal policy’s intentions and procedures, and a target, such as the long-term aim of reflecting the ethnic mix of the local population in the workplace.

Positive action includes more than a simple provision of equal treatment between people in the organisation through removing discriminatory hurdles.

It is claimed by some that such measures are inadequate if members of under-represented/victimised are starting from the light bottom of the ladder. The American version of positive action involves affirmative action. This type of action is not limited to treating people without discrimination. Positive action entails making extra effort to “encourage groups who would not normally apply”. This however does not normally apply to nationals like those of minority groups.

Diversity management:

This section is where considerable attention is given. Diversity management does, or at least may include elements of the other approaches, but however, adds diversity philosophy and ideology to this approach. According to Thomas (1990), this section can be divided into two sections. Firstly being valuing diversity, where there is a desire to work towards the making up of an ethnically mixed workforce, and more importantly recognise the benefits of an ethnically mixed workforce.

The second part is managing diversity which spreads by actively managing the diverse mix of employees in ways to contribute to organisational aims and “develop a heterogeneous organisational culture”.

Case Study: Sainsbury’s UK

Sainsbury’s is one of the top UK retailers with many stakes in financial services in which it hires 148,000 employees. “It consists of Sainsbury’s Supermarkets, Sainsbury’s Local, Bells Stores, Jacksons Stores and JB Beaumont, Sainsbury’s Online and Sainsbury’s Bank”.

According to Sainsbury’s PLC, the main objective is to work for and supply customers the best service, and thereby equip the stakeholders with honorable, viable monetary returns.

It is essential they allow all colleagues the opportunity to enhance their abilities and that their contribution towards the success of the organisation is recognised through praise and rewards. Sainsbury’s policy is to maintain close cooperation with their suppliers in order to sufficiently satisfy customers’ demands. A significant amount of importance should be given in aiming to achieve the responsibilities they owe to both their surrounding community and the environment.

Sainsbury’s always guarantees that they will be working towards delivering a fantastic shopping experience with quality products at reasonable prices. They will deliver an ever improving quality shopping experience for customers with great product at fair prices. They will strive to uphold a strong level of customer satisfaction through their health and safety codes, as well as the production and sale of excellent products ensuring that the quality of their lives is enhanced with a visit to Sainsbury’s.

It is clear that Sainsbury’s has no regulations or policies against migrant workers and especially those who are Muslim as they say “we have found migrant workers to have a very satisfactory work ethic, in many cases superior domestic workers”. They also say; “They tend to be more willing to work flexibly, and be satisfied with their duties, terms and conditions and productivity requirements.”

Sainsbury’s found that employing migrant workers in all their branches has caused a positive impact on the local or domestic employees which caused an increase in their productivity as they said “employing migrant workers in its stores often produced a positive effect on the domestic staff”

Looking at the organisational approaches towards managing diversity: the case of migrant good workers in the UK in the case of Sainsbury’s, we find that such organisation allowed its Muslim workers to stay away from giving the customers cans and bottles of alcoholic drinks. They gave the workers that grow up against alcohol on religious grounds to call a colleague in order to take their places in helping customers with such drinks and even when scanning the drinks on the cashiers. “Islamic workers at Sainsbury’s who object to alcohol on religious grounds are told to raise their hands when encountering any drink at their till so that a colleague can temporarily take their place or scan items for them.”

Case Study: IKEA UK

IKEA is a Swedish retailer that was first established by Ingvar Kampard. His main idea was “to sell a wide range of stylish, functional and affordable furniture at prices so low that the majority of people can afford to buy the (Keegan & Green, 2002, pg365).” The first store was opened in Sweden in 1954, and since then it started to spread out speedily to a point in which it became a one of the core organisations in the furniture industry.

The main objective for IKEA was “to contribute to creating a better everyday life for as many people as possible by making beautiful, functional items for their homes at the lowest possible prices, which is why we see it as our duty to grow”


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