Incidents of non-Muslim Americans harrassing Muslim Americans in the workplace are climbing, and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has been having to step in with lawsuits. This today in the New York Times:
Last month, the commission sued JBS Swift, a meatpacking company, on behalf of 160 Somali immigrants, saying supervisors and workers had cursed them for being Muslim; thrown blood, meat and bones at them; and interrupted their prayer breaks. On Sept. 1, the commission filed a case against Abercrombie & Fitch, the fashionable clothing retailer, accusing it of discrimination for refusing to hire an 18-year-old Muslim because she was wearing a head scarf.
And an EEOC attorney is quoted in the Times saying this:
“There’s a level of hatred and animosity that is shocking,” said Mary Jo O’Neill, regional attorney of the E.E.O.C.’s Phoenix office. “I’ve been doing this for 31 years, and I’ve never seen such antipathy toward Muslim workers.”
The reasons for this rise? In addition to the bad economy, which sets people on edge, the Times report rehearses the obvious:
Polls have shown that many Americans feel a growing wariness toward Muslims after the 9/11 attacks and after years of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mosques and Islamic community centers in the United States — most prominently one proposed near ground zero in Manhattan — have faced substantial opposition.
It’s time for non-Muslim and Muslim Americans to initiate conversations with one another and end the collective guilt scapegoating, the demonization, and the stereotyping. This is a time for nuance and making distinctions, not hasty generalizations.