Religion, inclusion and me

Today we hear from our new Inclusion and Diversity Consultant, Naz Mir. November draws our attention to religion – it is Islamophobia Awareness Month and Interfaith Week, from 8-15 of the month.  We are also running a Religion and Belief in the Workplace webinar, that you can book onto here. Below, Naz shares his story of growing up as a gay teenager in a Muslim household, how this has shaped his outlook on religion and enabled his understanding of inclusion.

As the new Inclusion and Diversity Consultant, I’d like to introduce myself and share how excited I am to be working with Inclusive Employers and hopefully many of you. I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you a little about myself and how my story has led me the important work happening here at Inclusive Employers.

My professional background is in Organisational Development, helping businesses to support their culture change initiatives, but it wasn’t until 2017, when I got involved in helping to build an Inclusion and Diversity strategy from the ground up, when the power of inclusion not only transformed my views on how it impacts businesses, but also how it shaped my personal life and career goals.

Growing up as a gay teenager in a Muslim household was not always easy for me. I never knew the right balance of being my authentic self and being who I thought others wanted me to be. I spent a lot of time not sharing my true feelings or engaging, in fear that people would find out who I was.

It wasn’t until I unpicked all the fear I had associated with religion, culture and me being gay, that I also grew to have a love and deep appreciation for all religions and faith. Just because I had heard stories of homophobia within religion, doesn’t mean it needed to be part of my story, and it doesn’t mean that all people who follow a particular religion support homophobia. By my early 20s I had finally found my way, by surrounding myself with those from all different backgrounds who had one common thread: they had empathy and were willing to listen and support me on my journey. Ever since, I’ve had the passion to do the same for others, helping them to realise that what makes them different gives them power. Everyone has something unique and important to bring to the table.

Joining Inclusive Employers has been such an important and cathartic step in my journey. I’ve learnt that here, we allow others to have their own inclusion journey. Allowing each of you to be presented with a plethora of information and content to use at your own pace, given the intricate and complex environments and cultures you work in.

My ask of you is to be aware of the importance of taking our own time and to have our own experiences and not let the media and other outlets influence our opinions on how we look at the world. This November at Inclusive Employers, we are raising awareness for Islamophobia Awareness Month and also Interfaith Week (8-15th Nov). This is especially important in the UK, as we recognise Islamophobia Awareness Month and Interfaith week, and in the lead up to December, a time of year when many religions celebrate different festivals. You can find out more on the importance of beliefs by signing up to our Religion and Belief webinar on 11 November.