Wednesday, 23 December 2015

I have worked for more than 15 years for the recognition of Islamophobia as a specific form of anti-Muslim racism expressed in all aspects of life, and in particular in the work environment. 
I would like to reverse the perspective and for once show an interest - to analyse what this tells us about practices and discourse within the Muslim community - in the way in which employers who apply a Muslim ethos within their organisation (company or association) accommodate the practices and convictions of their non-Muslim employees. With seven years of practice and research in the field of diversity management, I can say that it is often not better at all - sometimes even worse - than the "mainstream" non-Muslim employers: you encounter a total incomprehension of diversity, a refusal to accommodate difference, a refusal to accept the visibility of other beliefs, the imposition of religious standards in the organisation, a rejection of flexibility in the organisation of work, a failure to anticipate the need to handle conservative behaviour in respect of relations between the sexes or reactions of Muslim staff to requests from their non-Muslim colleagues. 
The worst is that some people justify their intolerance based on verses from the Koran, or more often hadiths - because you always find someone who will suport the opinion that one should want to impose - and seek to "religiously" lock down any possibility of debate when it involves organisational problems. 
The Christmas tree and bottles of alcohol are "old chestnuts" in this respect. It can be noted - with great sadness as far as I'm concerned - that once they are in a position of power and majority domination (within a company organisational unit, thus private), "the" Muslims do not fail to be drawn in by the balance of power. This is reflected, in particular, in the construction of the other (the infidel, the kuffar) as a different species, with whom it is prohibited to mix, to sympathise, to identify - especially when it comes to making space for the celebration of their festivals. We thus find the same discriminatory organisational mechanisms, the same ones that are legitimately fought passionately against when it involves Muslim minorities. 
What is infidelophobia? 
"Infidelophobia" is the Muslim counterpart of Islamophobia within the majority community. I am all the more struck by this phenomenon in that it develops in organisations with a Muslim ethos whose employees and directors have almost all developed, before joining them, in a non-Muslim professional environment and thus have confronted the difficulties of being included with their claimed or supposed partcularity. Once the power has passed to the other side, they adopt similar hegemonic behaviours and act based on a systematic racism, but inverted. Their practices are oriented around extremely negative perceptions and representations of "infidels" which are very widespread within Muslim communities. 
Let us therefore take advantage of this occasion [Christmas] to reflect in a critical manner on the way in which intra-community discourse has constructed the "infidel" as the absolute other. Let us recognise that processes of distancing and reification of the other (otherisation), similar to those that are found in the discourse of the racist Right, have free reign within our communities in relation to all sorts of groups whether based on culture and beliefs (the "infidels") but also race (in respect of blacks, Roma, Jews, etc.).

The author is Michel Privot, a convert to Islam, who calls himself an Islamologist.


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