|NATFHE and its Muslim Members
Guide for branches
Adult education lecturer, Leeds:
‘I am perceived by society to be a Muslim because of the colour of my skin and the sound of my name. Although I do not practise the Muslim religion, I would define myself as being of Muslim heritage because of my parents faith, culture and ethnicity and the association of my name with the Islamic tradition.
‘I have suffered numerous attacks which I believe were part of a consequence of my Muslim heritage including: being beaten unconscious and hospitalised, being driven from a degree course by an American Evangelical and his gang, and having to endure Islamophobic verbal insults from teaching colleagues.’
Further and higher education lecturer, Bradford:
‘If you're a Muslim woman and you tell people that you work in a college, they simply assume that you’re an administrator. Despite being in my forties, people usually say, “You're terribly young, have you just started?”
‘There has always been a difference in how we have been managed, how Muslim staff and students have been treated. Since 9/11, the situation has worsened. The demonisation of Islam has been completely internalised. In Bradford, lecturers have changed to European dress in an attempt to fit in. I'm also concerned that the reverse might happen and the Muslim community may become more insular and cut off from the rest of society.’
NATFHE is a secular trade union, and has policy to support a secular education system. The union has long campaigned for tolerance and respect between different groups. NATFHE has already developed policy in the area of race equality, and has previously published guidance addressing the needs of our Jewish members. For the reasons we set out below, it is now an important time to develop specific policies setting out the needs of our Muslim members, and NATFHE's obligations to them, as part of our anti-racist work.
This guidance was produced in response to the growing signs of anti-Muslim racism on college and university campuses, and also in response to research showing that many of the best examples of friendship and co-operation between communities can be found in further and higher education (Alif-Alpeh, 2005).
The 2001 census found that Islam was the second-largest religion in Britain and the fastest-growing:
Buddhists 0.3% (150,000)
Christian 71.6% (42,000,000)
Jews 0.5% (270,000)
Hindu 1.0% (560,000)
Muslim 2.7% (1,600,000)
None 15.5% (9,100,000)
Not stated 7.3% (4,300,000)
Sikhs 0.6% (340,000)
(Source: National Statistics, 2001)
The following points are designed with the particular needs of NATFHE's Muslim members in mind. However, similar points can be addressed to all other groups whose race, ethnicity or nationality overlaps with their religion. For example, the document argues below that if branches are thinking about social events, they should take care to provide halal food. The same applies to kosher food. If thinking about religious holidays, branches should bear in mind all traditions, not just Islam. You would not organise a branch meeting on Christmas Day, so do not organise a meeting at the end of Ramadan. Systematically adopted, such equality policies will benefit all NATFHE members, whether they believe in any religion or none.