Discrimination against Muslims of Minority Backgrounds

In March 2001, Ms Tannaz Haddadi, a Shia Muslim, wrote an official complaint letter to both Nihad Awad and Omar Ahmed, CAIR’s then chairman of the board. This letter came after she resigned from her two-year stint at the organization citing numerous acts of discrimination — including religious discrimination from her male supervisor after finding she is a Shia Muslim. She decided to quit CAIR once she realized that Nihad Awad, the Executive Director, was actually condoning the discriminatory behavior instead of putting a stop to it.

It may appear unusual to claim discrimination while working for a civil-rights organization. It may seem even more unusual that I am a Muslim claiming religious discrimination while working for a Muslim organization.

Haddadi was originally hired to be a research assistant then was promoted to be Training and Internship Director. Once her male co-worker found out that she was Shia, his attitude to her changed:

..I worked with Mr [Khalid] Iqbal to update the internship application form. He informed me that he wanted to ask which sect of Islam the applicants were from. I to him that he would have to do that section because I did not feel comfortable putting that on the application. I believe that is where [sic.] he discovered that my background is Shi’a and from this point on his attitude changed towards me.

He began sidelining her by assigning her task completely outside her job description — she was asked to answer the phone for half of her work day to fill in for a receptionist.  Haddadi reached out to Nihad Awad who at first looked surprised and shocked by Tannaz’s woes with her co-worker, and promised to intervene by talking to Khalid Iqbal. Only that once the hour of truth came during a meeting between Haddadi, her male co-worker and Awad, he backed up Khalid Iqbal:

When Mr Awad arrived at 10:45am I asked him about the meeting that was supposed to take place between him, Mr Iqbal and I. Mr Awad seemed confused so I told him that Mr Iqbal said they had met yesterday and the decision [to change Tannaz’s workload] was final. Mr Awad said that there must have been a lack of communication and that he would talk to Mr Iqbal.

At 3:30pm, Mr Awad requested a meeting in his office with Mr Iqbal and I. To my surprise Mr Awad started the meeting by saying “I am only here to interfere if there is a personal issue to be discussed. Khalid (Mr Iqbal) has the final authority over this matter.” I did not know why, after all of this, Mr Awad requested a meeting to tell me that he could not do anything. Mr Awad remained very distant the entire meeting and at times it seemed like he was not listening.