CAIRO – Well-qualified, ambitious and skilled Germen Muslims are complaining of growing discrimination against them in the job market, especially veiled women, who are taking the full brunt for their dress.
“Society is not open enough to let us work,” Erika Theissen, managing director of the Muslim Women’s Center for Encounters and Further Education (BFmF) in Cologne, told Deutsche Welle on Sunday, July 10.
Converting to Islam in the 1980s, she dons a carefully matched pastel blue headscarf to the rest of her outfit.
Noticing the changing work atmosphere in Germany, accompanied by exclusion of many Muslim women from work, Theissen established her BFmF center which employs over 50 Muslim women, some of them highly qualified.
In Dusseldorf, the North Rhine-Westphalian capital, she currently organizes a conference gathering about 80 people including scientists, politicians, activists and Muslim social workers to discuss discrimination against Muslim women in the workplace.
“People think the Muslim community doesn’t want Muslim women to work. But most Muslim women are not discriminated against by the Muslim community, but by society,” she added.
Theissen is not the only Muslim to face job market discrimination.
Collecting about 30 rejection letters, Ismahen Dabbach is a best example on the growing job discrimination in Germany.
“My name is Ismahen Dabbach, I am 26 years old, I was born in Germany and I am a trained office clerk. I am very flexible, independent and open to everything that carries me further forward in life,” the ambitious young woman used to say during job interviews. Yet, rejection was also the expected reply.
Dabbach, whose parents are Tunisians, feels that since she decided to wear hijab four months ago, her search for a job has become extremely difficult.
“They put you on a waiting list, then they invite you and tell you that they will call you, but after three days you get a rejection letter,” Dabbach asks.
“So you start asking yourself: did I make a mistake or is it the company’s fault?”
Germany has between 3.8 and 4.3 million Muslims, making up some 5 percent of the total 82 million population, according to government-commissioned studies.
Social analysts agree that German Muslim, especially veiled women, have hardly any chance of getting a job.
Such a trend, according to Mario Peucker, a social scientist at the University of Melbourne, is apparent in medium-sized German companies which show clear anti-Muslim tendencies.
“Even if they don’t have personal resentments, they may think that their customers or their staff might have a negative image of Muslims and this becomes their reason for not employing Muslim men or women,” he says.
Germans have grown hostile to the Muslim presence recently, with a heated debate on the Muslim immigration into the country.
A recent poll by the Munster University found that Germans view Muslims more negatively than their European neighbors.
Germany’s daily Der Spiegel had warned last August that the country is becoming intolerant towards its Muslim minority.
According to a 2010 nationwide poll by the research institute Infratest-dimap, more than one third of the respondents would prefer “a Germany without Islam.”
Denouncing the growing prejudice, which a 2006 anti-discrimination law could not end, Peucker called for offering employers anonymous applications so they would not see a name or photo on the applicant’s resume.
But Erika Theissen thinks it’s not enough.
“I think the government must be a role model for those people who have the possibility to give jobs and then I hope, other people will think: ok, I can take a woman with a headscarf, it will not cause a big problem for my business,” she said.
Living the current tragedy, Dabbach only dreams of a normal eight-hour job in her home country Germany.
“I want to have a normal eight-hour-job, from eight to five, five days a week, where I can wear my headscarf, like an ordinary citizen,” she says.
To turn the dream into a reality, she started searching the internet for jobs offered by Muslim companies. She got a job outside Germany after only three days of search.
For this job, Dabbach, who lives in the western German town of Gütersloh, would move outside Germany.
“What should I do now?” Dabbach asked helplessly.
“I am at home in Germany, my family and friends are here. Should I just leave them? I am really torn.”
(www.loonwatch.com / 11.07.2011)