The University of Waikato is reassuring its Islamic community that it does not condone discrimination after one of its lecturers implied on social media that employers should not hire Muslims because they stop to pray five times a day.

And Zumber Mohammed, who complained to the university about the post by American and history lecturer Dr Raymond Richards on a Z Energy Facebook page last Friday about diversity in the workplace, has also been contacted by the university thanking him for alerting them to the matter and telling him the university had very clear expectations of staff conduct.

University of Waikato spokeswoman Alice Clements said the university was reaching out with stakeholders including the student association and other groups on campus that any concerns they had were being taken seriously.

“We are pretty serious about not condoning language or actions that perpetuate hate discrimination or harmful stereotypes. And obviously we are really proud of the diversity of our campus here and try to reflect that in our expectations of staff conduct.”

Clements said the university was looking into the issue closely, but it could not comment on HR matters affecting individual staff.

“We have been very clear from the outset about our values and what we stand for.”

A number of Islamic groups have also spoken out against Dr Richards’ comments.

The Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand said Muslim women already faced a high level of discrimination in gaining employment and comments by Dr Richards did not help.

“Comments such as these from an academic like Dr Richards, even if they are made in a private capacity, will tend to carry more weight and increase the likelihood of discrimination in employment.”

The council said, in a statement, it was against the Bill of Rights Act and the Human Rights Act for employers to discriminate against their employees on the basis of religious belief.

The requirement of prayer did not stop Muslims’ abilities to do their jobs in the vast majority of instances, it said.

The Federation of Islamic Associations in New Zealand president Hazim Arafeh said it was disappointing that an educator in a respected learning institution could blatantly support bigotry and ignorance.

“In our opinion Dr Raymond Richards [of Waikato University] has done a disservice to academics everywhere who may well be critical of any idea but not without understanding its fundamentals and disarming them widespread prejudice that affects many institutions in society.”

Diversity Works New Zealand chief executive Bev Cassidy-Mackenzie said Dr Richards’ view was short-sighted and businesses should be embracing cultural diversity.

“A diverse workforce gives organisations a competitive edge – they can access new markets, connect with new customers, and improve their bottom line.”

Cassidy-Mackenzie said people should not feel they have to hide their religion, cultural beliefs, sexuality or family commitments from their employer and that forward-thinking workplaces were inclusive.

Both the FIANZ and the IWCNZ invited Dr Richards to meet with them to share their views with him.

Source: Hamilton News


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