Fostering workplace respect in an era of anti-Muslimism and Islamophobia

Leslie Elizabeth Sekerka (Department of Management, Menlo College, Atherton, California, USA)
Marianne Marar Yacobian (Department of Global Studies, Menlo College, Atherton, California, USA)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Publication date: 20 November 2018



The marginalization of Muslims can foster anxiety, anger, or fear in the workplace. Such negative reactions may prompt incivility among coworkers, denigrating a thoughtful regard for others. While legal protections are intended to promote fairness, mandates do not always prevent discrimination. As a result, management needs to frame anti-Muslimism as an ethical issue and proactively cultivate environments that support respect. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


To understand how anti-Muslimism may emerge in organizational settings, this work defines Islamophobia and examines how it manifests as workplace discrimination. The extant literature on the subject and a sample of anti-Muslim discrimination cases are studied to better understand this phenomenon.


An analysis of representative Equal Employment Opportunity Commission cases shows that a lack of accommodation for religious practices is a major ethical issue. Management can proactively address value tensions by creating safe spaces for organizational learning. Balanced experiential inquiry is offered as a process to help employees reveal their embedded biases through personal reflection and collective inquiry.

Practical implications

If managers intend to encourage equity and inclusion, they need to foster organizational learning that tackles emerging forms of discrimination like Islamophobia. A sustained focus on moral development becomes an imperative toward establishing an ethical climate and a workplace that fosters respect for all organizational members.

Social implications

Because organizations are at the intersection of business and society, it is incumbent upon managers to create environments that reject hostilities toward those who may be perceived as different.


In today’s sociopolitical climate, the concern of discrimination toward Muslims is a mainstream ethical issue. A compliance-based approach to advance organizational ethics is not enough. The authors present a way forward, building moral strength through moral competency.



Sekerka, L. and Yacobian, M. (2018), "Fostering workplace respect in an era of anti-Muslimism and Islamophobia", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 37 No. 8, pp. 813-831.

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