Take a good look at the JW logo — a star engulfed by a hilal: that sums up the following story. At any rate, so much for Texas being the “lone” state: there’s nothing unique about participating in the nation-wide phenomenon of dhimmitude. “North Texas employers answer prayer room requests,” by Jessica Meyers for the Dallas News, August 2:
Manzur Mahmud used to hide when he prayed.
He’d duck down in his cubicle at Dallas’ Texas Instruments or scramble to a friend’s office to conduct two of his five daily Muslim prayers. Now the Bangladeshi engineer walks down the corridor and enters a small prayer room.
North Texas companies are increasingly making space for quiet rooms as Muslim employees play a larger role in the U.S. workplace and feel more secure about verbalizing their faith.
Meanwhile, businesses nationwide are seeing a rise in the number of religious discrimination charges. The changing nature of the workplace is forcing organizations to navigate the nuances of religious acceptance and office productivity.
“People have started coming forward and identifying themselves as Muslims,” said Mr. Mahmud. “And employers are realizing that if their employees are happy, they work better.”
Dallas-based American Airlines has a multipurpose room visited up to four times a day by its Muslim employees who previously prayed in the stairwells. Nortel’s Dallas campus has several scattered quiet rooms available for prayer, and Electronic Data Systems in Plano just opened one last fall.
To aid companies, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued new guidelines last week for handling religious diversity issues.
Islamic prayer, which involves a specified cleansing and prayer routine, also causes confusion for those unfamiliar with the practice. Islam mandates five daily prayers in the direction of Mecca. Two of these prayers, early and late afternoon, often fall during work hours.
North Texas has up to 180,000 Muslims, the second largest population in Texas next to Houston and the seventh largest Muslim community in the United States. Many work in information technology and engineering jobs in Dallas and are now assuming management positions.
“Today you even have leadership and management training workshops associated with Muslims,” said Mohamed Elibiary, president of the Freedom and Justice Foundation, based in Plano. “They are trying to climb the corporation into management whereas in the 1990s they were just happy to have a stable job.”
Muslim backlash after 9/11 had a profound impact on the community, Mr. Elibiary said, and only now are Muslims becoming comfortable enough to showcase their faith again. He attributes it to American disenchantment with the Iraq war and the war on terror.
“As Americans started losing confidence, they stopped fearing their Muslim neighbor,” he said.
Some of the diversity guidelines provided by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:
“¢Employers should make efforts to accommodate an employee’s desire to wear a yarmulke, hijab or other religious garb. If the employee is required to wear a uniform, consider allowing modifications to include religious garb.
“¢Managers and employees should be trained not to stereotype based on religious dress and grooming practices.
“¢Employers should be sensitive to the risk of unintentionally pressuring or coercing employees to attend social gatherings after the employees have indicated a religious objection to attending.