'I hate Arabs': Abused workers turn to the law

'I hate Arabs': Abused workers turn to the law
Blog: Two incidents of employee abuse demonstrate the difference between a country governed by laws and another, in which laws only apply to certain people.
4 min read
21 Oct, 2015
Khaled's story could happen anywhere in the Arab world [al-Araby]
Two recent incidents may have happened in two different countries, but they may as well have been on different planets.

The first involved Mustafa, a French worker of North African descent, who works in a transport company owned a by a French man.

The second involved Khaled al-Sayed, an Egyptian restaurant waiter in the southern Jordanian city of Aqaba.

Mustafa was constantly harassed and verbally abused by his boss - and decided to secretly film him. The resulting clip was shown on French television's Channel Two.

     Muslim jobseekers in France had a 4.7 percent chance of being asked to an interview, compared with a 17.9 percent chance for Catholics

The television station aired the footage as part of an investigative series including such reports as: "My employer prefers white people"; "Boss to employee: I hate Arabs"; and "The job market: Muslims suffer racism in France".

The programme was largely based on a year-long study conducted by the Paris-based think tank, The Montaigne Institute, which responded to more than 6,000 job advertisements between 2013 and 2014.

The study found that Muslim job seekers in France had a 4.7 percent chance of being asked to an interview, compared with a 17.9 percent chance for Catholics.

Further, the report concluded that workplace discrimination against Muslims in France was six times higher than workplace discrimination against African Americans in the United States.

Mustafa had made a minor error while he worked, which his boss used as an excuse to launch a belligerent verbal attack against the employee - who was secretly filming the whole debacle.

"Since that boss was beheaded, I've had it," Mustafa's employer told him. "Do you understand? I just wish I could get my hands on an Arab to behead him. You're lucky, Mustafa, I don't like Arabs. I don't like Arabs, so you'd better be careful."


Meanwhile, Khaled al-Sayed, the Egyptian restaurant worker in Aqaba, was accused by a number of "tough guys" of not serving them properly.

The men began beating him.

It turned out that the "tough guys" were the brothers of a Jordanian MP, who was present along with his entourage at the restaurant.

Khaled was initially slapped - but did not respond. When he retreated, his attackers followed him and continued to beat him, while he remained silent.

The attack sparked a modicum of outrage in Egypt, with Khaled's compatriots accusing their government of failing to protect Egyptians, abused at home and abroad.

Jordanians were also angered and condemned the incident, before the MP attempted to explain and justify what happened with talk about "manhood" and "honour", saying that he had "beaten" his brothers and the entourage for their actions, and had Khaled reinstated to his position after he was fired.

The MP did not apologise, and no one mentioned that physical violence against another being - even animals - is illegal and punishable by law.

     The language of rights and responsibilities is not one that we are familiar with

Everyone talked about the nationalities of the people involved without mentioning basic human or workers' rights.

The language of rights and responsibilities is not one that we are familiar with, because we have not learned to use it as part of our vocabulary.

The MP used words such as manhood, honour and reconciliation to describe the incident, which exposes our backwardness.

He did not say that the incident was illegal and a violation of the employee's rights - or that those responsible would be held accountable.

The attack was not merely an example of Jordanian attitudes, as it could have taken place in any Arab country and involve a worker holding any Arab nationality - and the outcome would be the same.

As for Mustafa, he now has lawyers to defend him and was granted medical leave because of the psychological impact of the verbal abuse.

Furthermore, his Arab-hating boss is now terrified of the consequences of his actions - and cannot fire Mustafa, having no legal grounds and being in the media spotlight.

It may be true that the boss still hates Arabs, but the law in France punishes hate crimes - and the verbal assault alone could land the employer a 45,000 euro ($51,000) fine and up to three years in prison.

But for Khaled, nothing will be done - and nothing will change.