Sunday, 28 July 2013

7 Issues Muslims Face Working With Each Other

     **Trigger warning**: Sweeping generalizations, confrontational language and moments of passionate rage.

  It’s time to address the elephant in the room.

     Let’s face it; working with other Muslims can sometimes be a drag. It has come to a point where some of us have felt justified boycotting other Muslims and their relative institutions as a whole; choosing to associate with them only in times of necessity through prayer and other means. I am not in any way advocating for this type of hostility towards the people of our faith yet I find it has become such a widespread phenomenon that its origins and causes must be explored. Our silence is not helping the situation but rather fostering further extreme attitudes towards our stance with one another. There are legitimate issues which must be addressed and this is not in any way a question of faith. Those who choose to halt their associations with Muslims in the working or volunteer sector should not in any way be subject to the judgement of their iman.

    Another point must be addressed; this is not a conspiracy. I have no intention of smearing or slandering my fellow Muslims by bringing this issue up for discussion. On the contrary, I choose to address these issues only in attempt to bring awareness to a harsh reality which we have chosen to ignore. By neglecting this reality, we have put in place and solidified some of the wrong practices and behaviors that are happening around us on a daily basis. I mentioned earlier in “Racist Things Your Fellow Muslims Say To Each Other” the concept of shedding light on the places where our Ummah needs some work:

 lack of confrontation of a problem does not mean it doesn't exist. Our strength as an ummah should not lie with our ability to overlook certain aspects of our lifestyles and to "focus on the positive" but it should lie with our willingness to detect problems and choose to label them as such. Once we label an issue, we must take concrete steps to find ways to raise awareness and diminish the problem.

Here are 7 big issues we face working with each other:

1.       “Connections”:

    We've all heard of this term before. It applies to the notion of being in the privileged state whereby one is able to use his social affiliations to get closer to his desired goal. Unfortunately, whether we choose to recognize this or not, this privilege can sometimes impede on the rights of others to an equal opportunity. Furthermore, it can add to ideas of exclusivity and feed arrogance. The concept of harboring a tight knit group who are connected initially by more than the work in question creates the thinking of "us" versus "them". This thinking can lead to rigidity, groupthink and extremism in some cases. Islam teaches us to reach out to all and to never see ourselves in a better light than our fellow brothers and sisters. We must remember this at all times when we decide to form groups. Not all of us have established groups we can use as references and links, we should keep this in mind the next time we hire or assign anyone. Of course, in some cases it would make sense to work with those who we know but at the end of the day, if there is no harm in doing so, we must open up our opportunities in the mosque to everyone who is willing to accept. Because there should never be a pre-requisite for joining the people of the mosque and seeking greater closeness to Allah (swt).

2.       Free loading:

     I'll make this very clear; stop monopolizing the good faith and intention of your fellow Muslims for your own personal gain. When you hire a Muslim, never expect this to come with a lower paycheck. What they choose to give in time, effort and money should be their choice and is ultimately on them. Once we realize that they are out to do so for Allah's sake and His sake only, then the picture becomes very clear; and that is that they are not doing you the favor, but rather it is only for themselves because their good deeds are collected for their sake. Freeloading is also seen in our communities when we pretend like our Muslim counterparts don't have a life outside of where you see them, so we make them work over-hours and at home if possible. And of course they can't complain on your watch, since that would be a disservice to Allah, right? Stop guilt-tripping us, please. Your brothers and sisters in Islam should receive your utmost generosity when they are hired. In fact, you should be paying them more to encourage them to continue seeking closeness to their brothers and sisters in Islam. And because it's sadaqa for you too, did you forget?

3.       Judging each other’s faith:

    Tell me, when did faith become a legitimate qualification for the mosque? Why do we have to pass your test or get approval from others to work with the Muslims in our circles? Our faith is none of your business. And I honestly don’t care if it's part of the job. If our communities are only accepting Muslims which they see as "pious" or "practicing" and "religious", where do the rest get their connection to the mosque and the Islamic environment? Are we opening up our communities to Muslims and others from all walks of life? Or can only the bearded and the ones who don the higab among them be appropriate for our image? Perhaps we should learn something from the treatment of the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who tolerated among the most ignorant of those to Islam, to the extent where he faced an outsider who was not aware of the religion that he found it appropriate to urinate in the mosque. That man converted to Islam because of the prophet's (Pbuh) soft and welcoming treatment.

4.       Lack of positive reinforcement:

   Look, I get it. A Muslim shouldn't need or expect praise from others for his deeds. But that doesn't mean we have to be so cheap with it on others. It takes a lot of patience and persistence for someone to go on living his days continuously giving and never receiving.  Some of us who are stronger than others can do so. But we all grow tired at some point. If we do not feel that we have contributed to the work and that we are needed, then we will be lead to believe that we are replaceable and that we don't matter. What's holding us back from a sincere praise or compliment? Is it our egos or our idea that Muslims don't need praise? Give it to get it. This way we can harbor an environment full of positive energy that propels us forward rather than an environment filled with hostility and coldness. 

5.       Lack of punctuality:

    This has become such a widespread issue that some of us have coined lateness to Muslims as a solid characteristic. Others are going to the extent to scheduling events an hour or so before the intended time to ensure everyone is present. And then there are those who invite you to events or meetings and are late themselves. I find this to be quite a sad reality. Since it is not only a reflection of lack of time management skills but also an image of how our time as Muslims is valued. Our laziness and wastefulness is shown in our lack of punctuality and unfortunately our arrogance as well. Your fellow Muslims are not living on your watch and shouldn't be obligated to confine to the standards (or lack thereof)  you hold for yourself. Their time is valuable and we must acknowledge this to become more productive and thoughtful members of our society. 

6.       Lack of proper communication skills:

    Improper and inappropriate communication is the basis of many of the issues Muslims face with one another. There must be a solid platform for communication which both parties can agree on. Whether it's e-mail, skype or phone messages, there should be a set method of communication that is comfortable for everyone. So if we're used to getting e-mails and suddenly we are expected to pick up our phones at 10 pm, we're not always going to be happy about that. You're my Muslim brother or sister, I get it. But our working lives can sometimes be separate from our personal, so don't expect us to be free for you on a 24 hours basis and to buddy with you. Communication while working with Muslims can fall into many blurred lines. So remember to set the standard and boundaries early on for yourself if they are being breached. As for our skills in communication, I think most of our problems stem from our personalization of matters when they shouldn't be personalized. When a Muslim asks for a promotion for his company for example, that is standard business practice and not necessarily a show of immodesty. We must learn to differentiate the personal from the regular. 

7.       Gender relations issues:

    Nearly all of us (I speak mostly for women) encountered some form of awkwardness working with Muslims of the opposite gender. There's so much taboo in communication with the other that some of us choose to steer away from men in the workplace or the volunteer sector entirely. While most men don't necessarily feel held back by women, women do not feel the same. There are plenty of women out there who have had such horrible experiences with Muslim men abusing the work environment that they feel objectified, oftentimes humiliated and thus oppressed. I am not insinuating the belief that all women are oppressed by Muslim men, cause that is not the case. But what Muslim men need to realize is that there is  covert manner in which some of them are deterring women from joining their spheres. I'll give some examples to clear this up. When Muslim women genuinely ask for a man's help, that should never be interpreted as an open invitation to pursue her outside of work. And in that same regard, it is not an invitation to shift a formal conversation to a personal one; where you express to her your deepest feelings about life and whatnot. And when women call you for help, they're almost never using it as an excuse to get closer to you. The bottom line is, not everything is about you. Some of us truly assume good intentions and we expect our brothers to be alongside us when we need them as a true ummah should be. The inability of some men to see past their own views that reflect their desires, rather than the reality, has caused many of us women to refrain from contact and to lose hope in men in our communities. That being said, the women must also acknowledge the same and hold themselves to a high standard. We mustn't monopolize the good intentions of members of the opposite gender for our own agendas.

  What problems do you face working with other Muslims in your community?


What do you think?