Categories: Lifestyle

Making your Career Halal – Challenges I’ve Faced

A quick look at my background:

A few years ago, I journeyed through a life changing experience which prompted me to question my religious beliefs. The result was a shiny new ‘Yasmin’ who tries to practice Islam in all aspects of her life, including work.

I’ve been in the media (advertising,marketing and PR industries) for a few years now and didn’t realize the issues that other practicing Muslims face every day and  I hope this article to helps them, and helps give non muslim leaders, a better insight into working with their Muslim colleagues.

Work events with alcohol

Manager: Hey Yasmin, we’ve got an internal event with one of our global offices later today and I’d like you to come.
Yasmin: Ummm, I heard that there’ll be alcohol, would it be alright if I be excused myself or attend remotely?
Manager: Oh don’t worry about that! There will be loads of non-alcoholic options!
Yasmin: But I’m not really supposed to be sitting at the same table or socializing where alcohol is consumed.
Manager: I still think you should come, even if it means standing away from everyone in the back of the office.

The Result:

I attended the event lurking around in the background, being a naturally active participant I wasn’t able to really benefit from the event since I didn’t feel comfortable being near all the alcoholic beverages. As a result of my ‘Anti-social’ behavior my relationship with my manager was permanently damaged.

Do I Regret It?

I regret attending the event because in the end I couldn’t benefit from it, but I don’t regret sticking to my values.
(Keep in mind that I had actually mentioned to them when  I applied to the job that I wanted to stick to my values and avoid being in situations like this).

What I Could’ve Done:

Though I couldn’t change the work culture, I could’ve introduced ‘halal’ networking or work related events that do not include alcohol and  that everyone could enjoy. Whether that be through sports related team building events or even host my own event that I cater.

Advertising ‘non-halal’ products or services

Working in social media, I sometimes had to create or approve content that either directly or indirectly promotes the consumption of alcohol. For example:

Ladies! Don’t forget to pass by for free bubbly from 6pm – 8pm every Monday!

After some deliberation, I decided that I wasn’t comfortable approving copy like that. So I spoke to my manager and explained my situation.

The Result:

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I had a wonderful manager and was working with lovely people. After talking to them about it for a short while, a non-Muslim colleague of mine offered to approve all alcohol related content so that I could continue working on the other content.

Do I Regret It?

No, because I stuck to my values and in the process found a new found respect for my manager and colleague (you guys know who you are!)

What I Could’ve Done:

Maybe trying to better understand the role of the job before taking it on and seeing if I might be exposed to things that do not fit into my beliefs and discussing how we may be able to tackle them before hand. (This won’t work with every employer, I was just incredibly blessed with this team – I actually ‘lost’ a job opportunity because of this)

Excusing myself in the middle of back to back meetings to pray

This didn’t happen often, but one looong day we had back to back meetings all the way from 8 am – 6pm. In the meantime, I needed to break away for my afternoon and midday prayers. To add to that, we had a new manager on board and I didn’t want to make a bad impression by leaving a meeting half way through.

The Result:

There was a five minute gap between one meeting and the next, so I took the opportunity to excuse myself for prayer. At first the manager looked a bit shocked (because we were working on something incredibly important with a very short deadline) but then he very kindly smiled and nodded his approval.

Do I Regret It?

No, I’m glad that I told him that I need to time a short break to pray, it made it easier in the future to excuse myself for 5-10 mins during prayer times. Also, I learnt to love my manager and to learn to respect his decisions and his timetable in the same way that he respected mine.

What I Could’ve Done:

I could’ve taken the time to have a coffee with the new manager and explain to him that. as part of my beliefs, I need to pray 5 times a day and that 2 – 3 of those prayers will be during work hours, and thanked him for being so understanding. (He was a brilliant person so it wasn’t needed in this case, but might be useful to educate other people in the workplace)

There you have it! I’d love to hear about the challenges that you’ve faced and how you overcame them! If you aren’t comfortable writing them in the comment section, please feel free to message me.

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