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Muslim Employee was Gifted Alcohol Product by Employer – This is How He Responded

Muslim Employee was Gifted Alcohol Product by Employer – This is How He Responded

My brother-in-law works for a start up in Silicon Valley, California. He believes in his firm’s mission and is so passionate about his work that he is always on call. If you work in IT, you would know you would have to be on standby. 

As the year came to an end, his firm sent him a big box as an appreciation gift for all the hard work he has done for the year. He was so excited to open the big box in front of his family, however,  soon his excitement turned into disappointment, and then to embarrassment. He was gifted a “wine mixer and 2 fancy wine logoed glasses”. My brother-in-law is a Muslim. As you may already know, alcohol is prohibited in Islam. Gifting someone alcohol-related stuff when their religious beliefs prohibit the consumption of alcohol is like gifting an animal-derived product to someone who is vegetarian or vegan.

His family has seen the hard work, passion, and creativity he puts into his work. He takes pride in his employer and tells us stories about how he plays a key role in solving problems. After seeing the gift, my brother-in-law started making excuses to protect the image of his employer in front of his family and we all played along.

If any employer is reading this, we would really appreciate as part of diversity and inclusion if you spend a few minutes finding out about why giving alcohol or related gifts to a Muslim is offensive. 

I still remember my wife going on about how my employer gave me gift voucher and how she enjoyed spending it and that she cannot wait till next Christmas. It was not the value of gift but the gesture from my firm that went a long way. 

In an age where knowledge is at our fingertips, it is vital for employers to do a little research on their employee’s backgrounds and beliefs when giving a token of appreciation accordingly, as thought out the year we go above and beyond in many occasions for our employer. 

Many employers claim to build a workspace and culture as that of a family… so it is not essential to keep our family members’ beliefs in mind? 

After posting the above on my LinkedIn, I got overwhelming support from both Muslims and non-Muslims. Few of the responses was “So glad you mentioned it…Once my college even asked business referrers, we were going to lunch with not to drink as I would be present – I didn’t even know- he called them and asked them beforehand and only told me after – That is true respect”; this is something that really spoke to me because this employer not only kept the employees religious preferences in mind, but also showed him a level of respect that he will probably remember for the rest of his life. 

Another person wrote “Appreciate you raising this bro! – even with Christmas parties and what have you not i.e. choosing alcohol-themed venues despite having employees of different faiths who may choose to abstain or not feel comfortable in such environments! More needs to be done” ; I absolutely agree. More does need to be done; and maybe we can start being this change and speaking up for ourselves.

There was another response which said “My employer is taking Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) very seriously and in our new office, has a designated prayer room/quiet space”; this should be the standard in all spaces of work and this employer making this effort shows that they are interested in their employees’ wellness as a whole. 

I also had response from the non-Muslim community saying “Thank you for the reminder”. 

D&I is not a Muslim thing. It is about bringing people from different religions, races, and ethnicities together. It is much more than policies or headcounts. Equitable employers tend to outpace their competitors by respecting the unique needs of all their team members. As a result, diverse and inclusive workplaces earn deeper trust and more commitment from their employees. 

With all the feedback I received, I thought of making a guide for employers and employees to promote D&I, and enhance working relationships and promote togetherness. 

  1. The first should be us employees stepping up and taking ownership, and leading on this as we are best positioned. So, I would suggest to join your D&I committee, or create one if there is not one already, as the best people to explain our culture or religion are us. 
  2. I would suggest employers have a D&I awareness campaign were they run educational webinars, videos or articles explaining about other cultures and religious practice, for example, “why is Diwali the festive of lights?” or “why do Muslims fast in month of Ramadan from dawn to sunset” (Yes with no food or water) – this educational content should be kept short and sweet and maybe follow it up with an information webpage or a YouTube video that goes into detail for the interested ones. 
  3. D&I fun days. Who does not love an Indian curry, sweets and cakes? Have a day to celebrate Diwali or Eid where people can prepare their cultural food and bring it to share and most importantly- build community! 
  4. The above points will raise awareness, however, it’s still general and not personal. As a financial adviser, I always ask my clients their ethical preference on the investments, like how they feel on their investments exposed to oil, alcohol, tobacco etc. and I have had requests from clients who say “we don’t want to invest in any form of animal testing companies” or “I don’t want to invest in oil or tobacco,” and we recommend investments accordingly. If us financial advisers can ask our clients about their ethical preferences before investing, or businesses can run marketing surveys to find out what the customers are looking for, then employers can ask employees preferences and include this as part of employee reward and recognition schemes.

I hope the above helps and if you would like to add something please leave a comment and please feel free to follow me on my socials 

Instagram – Shahh12

Linked in – Shah Mir – Chartered Financial Planner

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