Muslim workers demand prayer room from an unlikely corporate giant


Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos can an expect a demonstration at the front door of his Seattle headquarters from a group he’s declared support for in the past.

Amazon contracts with a security contractor, Security Industry Specialists, to guard its Seattle facility.  On May 1, The Service Employees International Union and three Muslim guards employed by SIS accused them and, by extension, Amazon, of not granting Muslim employees a place to say their daily prayers, something devout Muslims do 5 times a day.

They say that higher-paid employees and other religions are granted the use of prayer rooms, and that lower-paid security personnel were not offered the use of prayer rooms.  Muslims make up a large portion of the 800 officers that patrol the Seattle headquarters.

In January, Bezos released a company wide email. The Amazon founder said his company’s legal team was preparing support for a battle against President Trump’s executive order regarding travel from seven Muslim majority countries. “We’re a nation of immigrants,” Bezos said in his email. “No nation is better at harnessing the energies and talents of immigrants. It’s a distinctive competitive advantage for our country—one we should not weaken.”

Although Amazon supports immigrants, the SEIU says, “Unlike other companies in locations with large Muslim populations, Amazon has not supported Muslim service workers requesting space to pray during their law-mandated work breaks.” The statement was made in an email to PJ Media.

In an email SIS CEO Tom Seltz sent  to Think Progress, he said:

“Our employees assigned to Amazon have always been permitted to access space (when available) to pray on breaks, even before dedicated prayer rooms were formally introduced,” he said. “Before prayer rooms were introduced, employees generally used a vacant conference room or quiet room, when available. This has been the case for the past four years (since we’ve been at Amazon), and the recent addition of dedicated prayer rooms has just made access even easier. We count ourselves as fortunate that Amazon extends this accommodation to our employees.”

But Essag Hassan, a former SIS guard, said he was fired after his request to be allowed to pray on his work breaks at Amazon,.

“I was fired and not given a reason why,” Hassan said. “I’m speaking out for all Muslim security workers and for workers of any religion. When you ask for a space to pray on your work break, that request should be treated with respect.”

“Despite granting the high-earning tech workers conference rooms to pray in, there appears to be a double standard for the contracted security officers who protect the tech giant,” an SEIU email to PJ Media concludes.  SEIU will be issuing “a strongly worded letter” from the “Seattle faith community” to be delivered to Amazon at the May 1 rally.

Muslims employed SIS  claim both that company and Amazon  have a history of mistreating or not accommodating their Muslim faith practices.

In February, Muslim clergy and others mounted a mass prayer demonstration.  It was a show of support to Muslim’s employed by SIS “who see Amazon’s current policies as religiously discriminatory” according to The South Seattle Emerald .  The demonstrators had the same complaint about access to prayer rooms. Citing issues surrounding prayer, an Amazon security specialist named Ismahan Ismail told The South Seattle Emerald, “When I did speak up, I was actually retaliated against. I had someone step on my prayer items.”

At the February rally, another security officer, Usama Baioumy, said “I want to set the record straight. Amazon provided us with a prayer room. … I pray in the room here. Amazon helped us by providing prayer rooms across the building.”


H/T: P J Media

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