Tag Archives: religion

Why a hijab is not a hat

3 Mar

On Friday, a judge in Quebec refused to hear a case because the woman in her courtroom was wearing a hijab.
She likened it to someone wearing a hat or sunglasses – which are not permitted. Furthermore, she is reported to have said that the woman was not “suitably dressed”.
When I heard it on the radio I had to stop the car and take a moment.

Suitably dressed?!

Let’s consider the difference:
Hats and sunglasses are fashion accessories that we choose to wear.
Some Muslim women wear hijabs (head scarves) for religious reasons – and are not permitted to remove them outside of their home.
That would, in fact, make this woman “suitably dressed”.

Why are people still experiencing discrimination for what their beliefs require them to wear?

Since Rania El-Alloul has been interviewed, many leaders (including the Prime Ministers office) have spoken out against Judge Eliana Morengo’s decision. But she hasn’t been disciplined.

What’s wrong with this picture?

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Copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker and facilitator on issues of Diversity & Inclusion.


The Message of Free Bibles in School…plus

28 Mar

Congratulations to the Bluewater District School Board (in Ontario) for reconsidering the handing out of free Gideon Bibles to Grade 5 students.

The article is very good and says a lot of what I would write here – so here it is for you to read.

The part of the article that stood out for me the most, considering what I’m up to this week, was the following paragraph:

“Public schools are the wrong place to hand out religious texts. Any material given away in a classroom comes with a sense of tacit approval by the school, the school board and the teacher. The latter is an authority figure in the lives of Grade 5 students, which makes the implied approval feel all the more real.”


I am currently in Newfoundland and Labrador with Egale Canada, training all junior and senior high school principals, vice principals and guidance counselors in the province on why it’s important to (and how to) create LGBTQ safe schools. (Yes, you read correctly, ALL principals, vice principals and guidance counselors. Yay Newfoundland and Labrador!). Just like how what is IN the curriculum is given value (and, in many cases shows students the existence of that fact or issue), what is MISSING implies less or no value, or possibly denies the existence of a fact or issue (or in this case, an identity). School may be the only place students will hear about being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, Two-Spirit, queer or questioning (LGBTQ). If they are straight or cisgender, this can become part of their education about diversity, inclusion and respect. If they are LGBT or Q, it allows them to see themselves in the curriculum and also understand that they are not alone, and that there is nothing wrong with them and nothing to be ashamed of. This is huge, especially in communities or families where it is not talked about, or where what they hear only tells them it is wrong.

Including LGBTQ people and issues into the curriculum can be as simple as using a family with 2 dads in a math example, reading And Tango Makes Three in Kindergarten, choosing a great English Novel with a gay, lesbian, bisexual, Two-Spirit, trangender, queer or questioning character, or including the fact that people can be attracted to members of the same or opposite sex in health class when the topic of relationships is covered. These are 4 simple age-appropriate examples that acknowledge the existence and presence of LGBTQ people in our communities. At about 10% of the population, we are there, whether you know it or not.

LGBTQ safe schools (and any LGBTQ safe space) has to be created purposefully and obviously, because of the silence, stigma, and discrimination that still exists around this issue, despite the laws in Canada.
We are literally making history here in Newfoundland and Labrador, as this province is the first in Canada to embrace the creation of Gay Straight Alliance student clubs in schools, and to recognize the importance of creating schools that are safe for LGBTQ (and therefore ALL) students. The Minister of Education is on board, the Department of Education is present at the workshops, and the School Districts are supportive.

I am honored to be part of it, working for Egale Canada.

Education is powerful.
And what/who is included by example, material, and role models (etc.) sends as powerful a message as who/what is missing.

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Copyright 2012 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity and inclusion

Faith at Work III

5 Dec

Sometimes at a conference, we are challenged by the people in the seats, as well as by those on the stage. The Diversity@Work conference put on by Skills for Change on November 9th was no exception.

The panel discussion (When is a hat not just a hat?)  was interesting; we heard from a Minister, a former Buddhist Monk, and Immam, and a Rabbi. To me, there was a common message of taking more time to talk, to listen, to ask questions, and to get to know each other, and to not be afraid to name and talk about the things that are happening around us so that we can learn from and support each other; all amazing calls to action.

But there was something nagging at me that I couldn’t put my finger on until someone stood up and asked a question about power and privilege. Ah…

She pointed out that we were still using words like “tolerance” and “ethnic” and “hospitality” in this discussion that suggest an Us and Them approach. What we weren’t talking about, she continued, was the way the dominant culture has been woven, seemlessly, into not just what we do, but how it is done. When, and how were we going to talk about that? she asked.

There was applause.

Sadly, although there were responses, no one actually addressed her question. I think we just don’t know how to have that conversation. And I think we spend so much time talking about accommodating and recognizing the other that we don’t realize that this in itself is perpetuating the Us vs Them. Until we see that and recognize it, we will continue to welcome others into our space, but not really create spaces for all.

It’s time to change the conversation!

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Copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity & inclusion

Faith @ Work II

22 Nov

One of the workshops I attended at the Nov. 9th Diversity@Work conference put on by Skills for Change was by Nadir Shirazi. He spoke about dedicated spaces in offices for quiet time, prayer, meditation etc.

Nadir’s presentation was very interesting; he shared the challenge for companies to name these rooms, and the lack of follow-up to see who is using them and how they are used. He confirmed that most of the requests for such rooms are made my Muslim employees. And he explained that complexities arise when these rooms are used by many people with different beliefs and needs. Providing a room, as the title of his workshop suggested, is just the tip of the religious accommodation iceberg.

What stood out for me most, however, was the inequity Nadir shared of where these rooms often are. In their commitment to diversity and inclusion many companies have such spaces in their corporate offices. This is wonderful for the executives and employees who work there, but doesn’t help the staff in the company’s call centres, or retail stores, or franchise outlets (for example).

It was an interesting manifestation of privilege within the context of attempting to be equitable; of how easily people can be overlooked even when we are trying to be inclusive. I’m willing to bet it’s largely unconscious that the men and women at head office have a meditation or prayer room while the workers “on the front lines” of these companies may not. But if this is the case, what do our accommodation efforts really amount to?

It sure made me wonder when I placed my order for tea at the Toronto Airport last week before boarding my flight, and noticed that not a single person working there was White.

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Copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity and inclusion

Faith @ Work I

14 Nov

Last week Wednesday I was at the Diversity@Work conference put on by Skills for Change about faith in the workplace. It was a thought-provoking day. The next few posts will share some of the things that stood out for me.

What struck me most about the panel discussion was the theme of getting to know people. I have long believed that political correctness (while perhaps well-intentioned) did us a great disservice because people became afraid to offend and so stopped talking and asking questions. Two particular things stood out:

We were encouraged:

1. To know how to read, listen, and attune to others so we can celebrate diversity

2. Through the spirit of listening and understanding, to develop a childlike curiosity about others, to have an interest to learn and dialogue and get to know people.

This last “call to action” was accompanied by an acknowledgment that we will likely make mistakes along the way, but that this is not the end of the world if we are, in fact, coming from a place of childlike curiosity.

Hooray! Asking questions and speaking with our colleagues (respectfully, obviously) is the only way we will get to know them. Getting to know someone helps to break down barriers as well as challenging our bias and stereotypes so we can actually see them rather than seeing who we think they are.

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copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity & inclusion.


Faith @ Work…?

8 Nov

Tomorrow I’m going to the day-long conference  http://www.diversityatwork.org/ put on by Skills for Change. The topic is faith in the workplace – an issue that is on the radar more often these days in the world of diversity and inclusion.

I’m looking forward to the panel discussion on the difference between faith and culture (because I think we often confuse the two when we don’t have enough information), and to the workshops in the afternoon. I’m hoping to attend Nadir Shirazi’s workshop on balancing assimilation and integration (moving beyond meditation spaces at work) and Immam Michael Abdur Rashid Taylor’s session on accommodation (a common sticking point with HR and other employees).  Of course these are only 2 of the 4 workshops available, so if I can’t get into those, I will have other great choices. 

I’ll report back on Thursday to tell you all about it!

And for those who think there is no place for religion at work, or that it has no impact – consider why our work week is Monday to Friday…

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Copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity & inclusion

Ramadan – and the importance of sharing experience

16 Aug

Last week I read Toronto Star columnist Rick Salutin’s column (The Ramadan kids go to the cottage). What struck me most about what he writes is how words alone fail us.

He writes about having 2 Muslim children spend a few days at the cottage with his son and himself, and the experience of fasting alongside them since it is Ramadan. He mentions the slower pace and the quiet that settled in after the first day; a sort of meditative state, he says.  And then he goes on to discuss slowing down and the deliberateness it brings with it.

Which got me thinking of how little words tell us without context – except that we often don’t realize this is the case. By having a small experience, he was able, in a few short paragraphs, to connect me with this month in a way I haven’t before. Because of this column, I can connect to the quiet that I experience on a slow walk with my dog, or canoeing or sitting in nature – and I can now feel some of the essence within the month. He wasn’t sharing facts, or just using the word Ramadan to stand for it all, he shared his experience.

As we hurry through life, and the busy-ness and bottom lines of work – how often do we brush aside opportunities to share experiences and stories because there is no time or we think we “get it”.

What opportunities are we missing (and who are we missing) as a result?

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copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder

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