Stories of Life: Working with a Moroccan Colleague

The following article was written by Marij Uijt den Bogaard , a former social worker working for the Antwerp municipality. She was fired after writing reports warning about radicalization in the Muslim community. The article originally appeared on Brussels Journal in Dutch.


"Well..," says colleague Mohammed. "Women are simply not accepted by the Muslim community. Therefore women also better not do this work [as neighborhood worker or integration civil servant]" He looks at me somberly. "That is just the way it is, and therefore I prefer not to work with a woman, that simply doesn't work."

Mohammed doesn't think that this mentality about women and work is wrong. In fact, whoever questions them is wrong because it is his culture and belief, therefore he accepts it, he "understands" it, we don't and therefore we must learn this, till we "understand" as well.

He sighs. Yesterday it came to a collision with his female colleague, a Flemish, who hierarchically is above him. Together with a small team of often immigrant coworkers, she cares for meaningful free time activities for the mostly Moroccan youth in the neighborhood. His female colleague is also close to despair. Working together with Mohammed is not plain sailing.

She has no support from her Moroccan colleagues. On the contrary, slowly but surely she's being frozen out. Whenever she appears in the square several older man gather round her and start speaking Berbers with her male colleagues. "They want to marry you," her male colleagues of Moroccan origin laugh, "because we said that you're not married." In the evening the men wait for her and trouble her, why won't she? Several girls of Moroccan origin take her phone, her colleagues look the other way, also when older kids who always start discussions with her kick her shins till they're blue and threaten her.

She didn't want to discuss the complete lack of fellowship, the negative attitude of the Moroccan colleagues. Her problem was Mohammed. He didn't want to work together with her. He walked aways during an interview and went to pray in the meeting room, calling on Allah to stand by him in the discussion with a woman! Perplexity by his female colleague.

Naturally she submitted her conflict with Mohammed, praying in the meeting room, to the management. Yes, it's annoying, but now what? The problem was pushed to the staff manager. Of whom came, strangely enough, a completely absurd accusation. Not Mohammed, but rather the female coworker, had overstepped her bounds. She had threatened Mohammed and provoked aggression.

How? By questioning his actions. Yes, that's what Mohammed had said. To the staff manager of course.. The female colleague stands as if hit by lighting. She doesn't weigh half as much as Mohammed, she would be mad to wake up aggression by somebody who could wipe her off the map, Mohammed is also a kickboxer, she is not that crazy! She's left with her feeling of powerlessness. Not Mohammed. In this conflict she's the bitten dog.

Her complaint about Mohammed's behavior was not taken seriously anywhere. It should be, since Mohammed discriminates against women in the workplace, and he is accused by female colleagues of sexual intimidation, and above all he doesn't offer help to a colleague who has to deal with violence from the target group.

And this for the simple reason that women shouldn't do this work, because they are unacceptable for Mohammed and the target group, we must understand that, end of story.

Nobody speaks to Moahmmed about this completely wrong mentality towards women. Worse still: We assume that by employing Mohammed the target group is "better reachable". In actuality, the effect is usually the opposite. Mohammed supports the target group, shares a wrong mentality and doesn't think to do anything differently.

And because nobody has the courage to approach Mohammed about the behavior that would be unacceptable for any other civil servant, we continue running on the spot, polarization and segregation increase and with a welfare system of thousands of field workers we don't achieve a mentality change, with respect for everybody regardless of origin, sex or belief.

If policy waits any longer, soon Brussels will be too small for everybody who's had enough. Because these disparities disrupt society. Not skin color, but the behavior of target groups causes people to be rejected at work, discotheques and swimming pools. It is time for whoever has had enough to get together, in the interest of everybody.

Source: Brussels Journal (Dutch)

See also: Stories of Life: Speaking Dutch

No comments: