WREN Stories: Islamophobia Awareness Month

Starting conversations on faith, religion and culture

November is Islamophobia Awareness Month, which aims to highlight the discrimination too often faced by Muslim people and the Islamic faith, while showcasing the positive contributions of British Muslims to society.

To mark the occasion, our WREN (Workforce Race Equality Network) Stories blog this month looks a little different, as two of our colleagues sat down to have an honest and open discussion about their differing backgrounds, cultures and faiths.

Nazish Hashmi is a Consultant Psychiatrist with our Perinatal Team. She’s also a practising Muslim mum-of-two, who emigrated from Pakistan to the UK around 16 years ago.

Errol Murray’s parents came to Britain from Jamaica. He’s a dad-of-two and is a partners’ peer support worker in our Perinatal Service, who also speaks of the Muslim culture within his family.

Watch the video below to learn more about Nazish and Errol, their cultures and experiences, and some of the challenges they’ve faced being of mixed culture in Britain. You can also read their reflections on their conversation and its implications below.

Errol and Nazish reflect on their conversation:

Errol Murray: “To approach a colleague about a professional issue is recognised as socially acceptable.

To approach a colleague about a social and more personal issue is not. It can lead to embarrassment on both sides, a frustration about expectations, and questioning on the party’s intentions regarding how they plan to use this new-found information.

Another question might be that if this information is so important, why didn’t I do my own research? These are all the points that could have faced my probing into understanding Muslim culture. So I am extremely grateful that my colleague was open and personable, and gave so much of herself to help me to understand her values and experiences.

It can be challenging to hear someone’s perspective on a culture that you don’t fully comprehend. The conversation generated several points that made me rethink my point of view. And for Nazish hers too.

So it is here on a personal level, where a connection begins. Although years of debate on race haven’t healed the problem, we strive to listen, to draw ourselves up and to stand tall on understanding and common ground.”

Nazish Hashmi: “When Errol approached me to talk to me about being a Muslim, I was happy to have the conversation with him and to answer any of his questions. We do not often have personal conversations at work – I knew Errol as a colleague and did not feel uncomfortable with his curiosity. It was good to hear his thoughts and perspectives compared to mine and to reflect how other people may also see Muslims.

I had the opportunity to know more about Errol beyond our work together. I took from this that everyone has a story behind them. The experience allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and stand in front of a camera, something I do not often do. I welcome these conversations that can dispel myths and would encourage colleagues to have more of them together.”