Abdullahi Mohamed Yabarow and Mustafa Ali Hussein got an ultimatum from their employer: stop praying during work hours or lose your job.
The two friends Abdullahi Mohamed Yabarow (32) and Mustafa Ali Hussein (30), originally from Somalia, felt they had no choice. Hussein and Yabarow say they are believing Muslims and that it's very important for them to pray five times a day. It takes them 10 minutes of work time to pray and it's Islamophobia that they don't get permission to do so.
For close to two years Mustafa Ali Hussein got 314.70 kroner (~$58) less in pay a month for praying during work time. That was the agreement between him and his employer. Workplace laws allow an employer not to pay a salary for the time an employee does other things, such as prayer.
Hussein and Yabarow worked for Nor Tekstil in Drammen, which rents and washes textiles for companies and institutions all over Norway.
Operations manager Edith Støa says the two quit voluntarily and that they were allowed to pray at work but only during the lunch break. Støa says that she understand that not allowing Muslims to pray during work hours might look discriminating but she also has employees who smoke and they don't get breaks either.
The reason the company had chosen to ban prayers during work time after several years of allowing it for a reduction in salary is that they now have more clients.
Støa says they have an assembly line and she can't have employees suddenly disappearing. In the past they've been considerate of Muslims but now there are so many that they can't continue to allow prayer during work time.
Hussein and Yabarow know more employees in the same situation, where the employers doesn't allow prayer or reduces their pay.
Hussein says his problem isn't in finding a new job but to accept that he's not getting the possibility to practice his religious rituals during work-time, despite going down in salary. He feels religiously discriminated. He has never gotten complaints about his work.
Akhenaton Oddvar de Leon of the council of immigrant organizations in Oslo thinks that prayer has never been socially accepted among Norwegian employers, equal to smoking breaks and small-talk. Leon says it's not about discriminating but about morality. Employers should have more tolerance and be a little pratical when it comes to such challenges in the workplace.
The equality and discrimination ombudsman says that generally employees can't demand to pray during work-time and that it isn't automatically discriminating to prevent prayer during work hours. Margrethe Søbstad of the equality and discrimination ombudsman says that they can't rule out in concerete cases that there's an objective reason to refuse an employee to pray during worktime. The ombudsman asks all employers allow Muslims and others to pray during work-time as much as it's practically possible.
Abdullahi and Mustafa are currently looking for a job and hope they'll find one that allows them to pray during work. Hussein says he's not interested in praying in hiding at work. He's chosen to be faithful to his religion and he's proud of that.
Source: Dagsavisen (Norwegian)
See also: Denmark: No problems with religion at work