By: Natalie Akoorie

Raymond Richards, Waikato University lecturer. Photo / Supplied

A university lecturer is under fire after implying employers should not hire Muslim workers because they stop to pray five times a day.

Dr Raymond Richards, who teaches American history and religion at the University of Waikato, made a comment on Friday on a Z Energy Facebook post about diversity in the workplace.

The post shows a photograph of a bearded man wearing a turban. Richards wrote: “Who needs employees if they stop work five times per day to talk to an imaginary being?”

The comment drew immediate criticism with responders saying Richards confused the Sikh in the photo with a Muslim.

One of those who replied, Zumber Mohammed, said he complained to Waikato University on Saturday morning.

“What I don’t understand is how can someone be given a position as a senior lecturer at university, especially on a topic of religion, when he makes comments about other people’s religion in such a way.”

Mohammed, a Fijian Muslim who has lived in New Zealand for more than 20 years, said he believed in freedom of speech but not in publicly mocking another person’s religion.

“I just can’t understand how somebody can be so stupid. He hasn’t personally offended me but what he said is offensive to a lot of people so I’m asking the university for him to publicly apologise for what he’s done.”

But Richards said he stood by his comment and that it had nothing to do with his job as a university senior lecturer.

He also denies confusing Sikhs and Muslims.

“Religion is fair game. Religion is an enemy of education. I’m speaking as an individual, expressing my own personal opinion.”

Richards said he made comments on all kinds of religion and that it was his right to do so through freedom of speech.

“I think it’s very important people exercise their freedom of speech and not be intimidated.

“Islam is not a race, it’s a religion. Some people say racism when you criticise a religion and they need to understand religion is an idea. It’s superstition, it’s not a race.”

Richards said he deleted his comment.

He said his comment was not representative of the university and he saw no reason why he should delete his employment information from his Facebook page.

However University of Waikato communications director Alice Clements said the university was taking the matter seriously and would be investigating.

“The University of Waikato does not condone language or actions that perpetuate hate, discrimination or harmful stereotypes,” Clements said.

“We are an institution that values diversity and have clear expectations of staff conduct. We will be examining this matter carefully.”

Z Energy spokesman Jonathan Hill said the company was disappointed with the comments on a post that was meant to be about encouraging diversity.

Hill said there were more than 250,000 followers on the page.

“We try and be respectful and inclusive while balancing people’s rights to express views. Sometimes that’s challenging.

“People need to be really mindful of what they choose to post on sites because when they list their employer they have a responsibility to more than just themselves.”

Source: Hamilton News


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