As he chats with a reporter inside a Dunkin’ Donuts on City Line Avenue, Iliyaas Muhammad would relish a small cup of water. But being a devout Muslim isn’t easy, and he has to hold out another hour or so.
“No eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset,” the 43-year-old Upper Darby resident explains before allowing that yes, he’s thirsty.
Muhammad might add that, in his view, fasting during the holy month of Ramadan (which runs from Sept. 1 to 30 this year) represents one of the lesser challenges an African-American Muslim faces…
Like PW, Justin Peyton doesn’t know the entire story of Muhammad’s on-the-job difficulties. But the 28-year-old executive director of Philadelphia’s chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is certain that American Muslims continue to encounter discrimination seven years after 9/11.
“I don’t want to say it’s common but it isn’t uncommon either,” he says.
Peyton says Philadelphia CAIR investigated 56 incidents of alleged anti-Muslim discrimination last year, including Muhammad’s (CAIR withdrew from the case after Muhammad retained a private attorney), and has probed 46 so far in 2008. Underwhelming numbers, perhaps, but Peyton says CAIR is fairly discerning in terms of accepting cases.
As to the sorts of discrimination Muslims encounter locally, Peyton says many involve women who want to wear the the traditional Islamic women’s headscarf or niqab (the veil some Islamic women wear over their faces) at work. (See p. 22 for more.)
“We get issues where they’ve applied for (or taken) a job and the employer tells them either the hejab or niqab has to be removed in order for them to gain or continue employment.”
More often than not the employer’s rationale is skewed, Peyton says.
“Then it’s our job to step in and say, ‘Hey, there are requirements for religious accommodation.'”