I have been asked to add a page on how I have dealt with the issues of Muslimahs (Women who are Muslim) in the workforce.
There are many issues that face a Muslimah who works outside the home. The first of these is the type of job she does, the environment, travel, and most importantly dress. Will she be able to observe her standards is a very serious question to consider? In America (where I live) and many western countries these are issues of great concern. In the case of where the woman is already employed at the time she reverts to Islam, this can create an even deeper dilemma. This is an issue that I have struggled with since I reverted in 1994.
At the time of my reversion I was and still am employed in a food processing factory. The first question that may come to mind is why don't I quit. The answer is a very simple economics. I carry the medical insurance on our family and because of my sons medical history to seek private insurance would be financially impossible.
How have I dealt with this situation is a question I am asked many times? My answer is this, I do the best I can under the circumstances and pray to Allah for help and guidance.
I must wear a uniform where I work and fortunately because it is in the food business our hair must be covered. I go to work each day fully dressed in my uniform and come home from work the same way. I am fortunate in that the area I work in I do not have to deal with any men unless there is an equipment breakdown and then only with a supervisor. I have made it very clear to my employer that I am Muslim and they are aware of the standards I follow. Because I am in an area by myself, I can do my salats on time and I have access to water for wudu which is convenient.
Have I had trouble with discrimination? No, I have not and in this respect I have been very fortunate. When I am not at work, I wear Hijab wherever I go. Questions I have had by the dozens, stares I can not count, and I have no problem with this because I feel if a person has a problem with what I wear, that is their problem not mine. Besides I consider it a challenge to try to educate those who do not know the truth of Islam.
As I have said I have had no blatant problems with discrimination but a while back July 2001, I had an experience with my supervisor that reminded me that it is there. My foster daughter was taking me to work and she wears hijab. My supervisor asked me who she was and I told him. He then commented "Oh, another one of them" (i.e. Muslim). I replied: "Yes another one of them just like me." He became quiet immediately as he realized that he had crossed a line in his remarks. Prejudice is there and can take many shapes and forms. We as Muslimahs and Muslims in the work force need to be aware and willing to stand up against it as in the United States, discrimination is illegal.