Name: Faizal Musa
Degree and university: MA Human Resource Management, Manchester Metropolitan University
Job title: Diversity Project Manager, The Co-operative
Faizal follows the Muslim religion
What do you do? I’m responsible for leading major change programmes that focus on Diversity related issues. For example, I was the HR lead on the Group’s project to make us a best practice employer with regards to age policy and practice when the employment equality (age) regulation was launched in May 2006. I have also managed the implementation of our Group Employee Assistance programme across the Co-operative Group. We employ in the region of 87,000 colleagues and have various businesses including the Co-operative food, travel, pharmacy, funeralcare and legal services.
Just how important is being able to follow your faith (without discrimination in the workplace) to you? It’s really important. Being a Muslim is a big part of my life and I try and follow the basic principles of it in every aspect of my life. This includes treating people with respect, showing humility, being honest etc. Of course it also requires me to pray five times a day, which for some less enlightened employers might provide a problem.
Has your faith ever been an issue as far as getting a job is concerned?
Not really as I’m pretty confident, and speak with a broad Lancastrian accent! However, I know of friends who have genuine concerns that because of their visible appearance i.e. having a long beard, or wearing a scarf etc, they may not be considered equally to others. I believe both the media and the government are equally palpable in causing people in the UK, and hence some employers, to have stereotypical views regarding Muslims in the UK.
If an employer had a negative issue to your faith, what would you do?
I’d try my best to resolve the issue in a rational way, but if this did not gain results, I definitely would not put up with disrespectful behaviour. We’re all different and live in an amazingly multicultural country; difference should be celebrated not castigated.
Does your employer have a positive and helpful attitude towards your faith? Can you explain in what ways? They’re great. I suppose being the Diversity Manager helps, but it is a genuinely supportive environment here. My boss knows that it is about the results that a person delivers, not the amount of time someone is sat at a desk. I’m allowed time and space to complete my prayers during the day and people are always very respectful during the fasting month of Ramadan. Further to this we all work together to accommodate religious holidays by talking to each other and finding the best way to ensure that business performance is maintained. When gifts are handed out colleague always make sure I’m not left out by buying products that are suitable for vegetarians and do not contain alcohol. We’ve also arranged training and visits for staff to different religious institutions to gain a better understanding and challenge stereotypes.
Do you think more should be done to promote diversity of faiths in the workplace?
To be honest, I try not to make a big deal out of my faith in the workplace, it’s just who I am. However I really believe in the importance of understanding about your colleagues and gaining as much knowledge as possible. Work may be the only place where we meet such a diverse range of people, and I think employers are in a unique position to facilitate education and respect between different groups.