Why Companies Miss the Mark When Intersectionality is Missing from Diversity Training


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When your company engages in conversations around gender equity and inclusion, what measures do you take to prioritize the specific context and needs of Muslim women? It is important to take an intersectional approach in your organization’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Training to make sure it hits the mark

Throughout important feminist struggles worldwide, a dangerous phenomenon has arisen that pits Muslim women’s experiences and choices against standards of gender equity and “progress” as they are characterized by the Global North. While violence against women and girls is pervasive, majority-Muslim countries and Islam are spotlighted as being uniquely oppressive towards women because of widely-held false ideas about Muslims being inherently dangerous and repressiveProfessor Nadera Shalhoub Kevorkian writes how private security companies, military experts, and even NGOs create radicalized policies using the language of “protecting, supporting, or treating women” who they deem to be “backward” to pathologize and politicize the women they claim to help.

Not only do these strategies ultimately stigmatize and harm Muslim women, but they justify Islamophobic political agendas that beget even more violence. Let’s not forget how the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was largely validated by “feminist causes” that claimed to liberate Afghan women, to legitimize and uphold the retaliatory “War on Terror.” This year in India, Muslim girls were denied entry to school for wearing hijabs, implying that their Islamic dress was forced on them by Muslim men, or that they were terrorists themselves. In 2011, the French government banned the wearing of the Niqab in any public place, giving a fine of €130 and a required citizenship class to any objectors. These and many other surveillance strategies have directly led to further violence and oppression against Muslim women worldwide. 

Using the following discussion guide with your team, you can start to disrupt some of these outcomes by unearthing the negative ideas behind Islamophobia, and their impact on Muslim women colleagues today, and discussing what it will take to meaningfully prioritize gender equity in the workplace and beyond. 

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