ISNA’s Position on ENDA

November 19, 2013-In anticipation of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee’s mark-up of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), sixty faith groups – including the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) signed a letter of support to the members of the HELP committee and the Senate leadership.

Here is why ISNA signed the letter in support of Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

The question ISNA asked itself was: Should an employer be allowed to terminate an employee for anything other than performance on the job that the employee was hired to do? For example, can the employee be fired for religious or cultural practices, such as wearing hijab on the job, or misbehaving sexually off the job? We support hijab on the job and we oppose misbehaving sexually off the job, but neither of these justifies being fired from the job. We were being asked to support the civil rights of employees to keep their jobs regardless of who they were and what they did with their lives, as long as they performed at the job as expected. We were not being asked to support or oppose any lifestyle practice or behavior.

The questions we asked ourselves were: Where do we draw a line between our moral values in terms of human rights and civil rights, and our moral values in opposing a particular lifestyle? Is it possible to support someone’s civil rights without endorsing their lifestyle? Should a secular society be able to impose religious values on its members? For example, do we support the right of a person to be an atheist, considering that the Qur’an says there is ‘no compulsion in religion’? If an association of atheists asks ISNA to support or to endorse legislation that prohibits discrimination against them in the work place, what would be our stand on that issue? What is the interest of the Muslim community in the long run regarding this issue?

We differentiate between someone’s lifestyle and belief system, and their right to express or believe whatever they would like to believe. At the same time, we defend and preserve our right to disagree with them in their lifestyle, and to engage them in debate with intent to persuade. Disagreement is different from discriminating against or depriving someone of a job.