Examining the Social Identity of Being a Muslim in the American Workplace
Master of Arts
Religion is often seen as a taboo and controversial topic in the workplace; however, it also plays an important role in many people’s lives. Over the past few decades, the religious landscape of the American workforce has become increasingly diverse. Unfortunately, as religious diversity in organizations has grown, so has the number of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charges involving religious discrimination, especially against Muslims. Even though many Muslims consider religion to be an important part of their lives, they may hesitate to fully identify with their religion publicly, such as in the workplace. This research used semi-structured interviews (N = 70) to examine current Muslim American workplace experiences through a social identity lens, exploring how intersectionality with other identities (i.e., gender) and interactions with other people (i.e., coworkers and leaders as allies) influence how Muslims experience religion at work. Although many participants talked about how their organizations are generally inclusive and supportive of providing accommodations, they also mentioned ways in which they feel like they are treated differently or excluded from social or professional opportunities. These results revealed that although many organizations are trying to be more tolerant of different faith groups, there are subtle ways in which organizations are signaling to their employees about who they value and are trying to advance. Participants discuss clear, tangible steps that leaders and coworkers can take to improve the experiences of Muslim Americans in the workplace, and future research and practical implications are discussed.
Muslim; workplace; identity