A 25-year-old Muslim woman living in the U.S. was born in an African town, yet despite her religion and location, people often mistook her for being European. This was typically let to inconveniences that were insignificant and sometimes amusing, but she recently discovered it could be quite problematic within her workplace.
A Confusing Background
The woman explained her somewhat confusing background: “I’m VERY white-passing. I’m a natural blond, pale, have a slight French accent, and speak French fluently. I live in the American South and use French for my job quite often. I’ve been told my Arabic name also sounds European to Americans, and everyone seems to think I’m French.”
A Hidden Muslim
Despite being Muslim, the woman explained that she hadn’t yet started wearing a hijab. Combined with her European appearance, most people she encountered did not realize she was Muslim.
A Friendly Coworker Named Joey
One day, while chatting with female coworkers, the woman shared a childhood story about a bazaar near her African hometown. Joey, a 27-year-old coworker from another department, overheard the conversation and assumed she was talking about her European experiences.
When Joey asked if she traveled a lot in Europe, the woman giggled, accustomed to the common mistake, correcting him by saying she’s actually from Africa. Joey’s reaction is unexpected as he exclaims, “Wait, you’re Islamic?”
A Startling Change in Attitude
The woman, still amused by the mix-up, confirms that she is indeed Muslim. Joey’s demeanor takes a sudden shift as he expresses that if he had known earlier, he wouldn’t have spent time getting to know her.
Confused, the woman asked Joey what he meant by his statement. “He replied saying that ‘Arabic girls are the biggest teases since we would never actually date a white boy’”.
Setting the Record Straight
The woman, unimpressed by Joey’s comments, questions why he assumed she owed him her affection. She points out that she doesn’t date and is religiously committed to wearing a hijab soon.
Judgment from Colleagues
To the woman’s amazement, some of her coworkers took Joey’s side. They suggested that the woman led Joey on by not disclosing her Muslim identity sooner, arguing that she should have been upfront to avoid him wasting his time pursuing her.
Feeling perplexed by the situation, the woman reflects on her actions. In general, she found Joey’s comments offensive, entitled, and rude, and couldn’t believe that her colleagues were backing him up. However, considering the backlash, she began to wonder whether she indeed unintentionally misled Joey by not immediately revealing her Muslim identity.
The Internet’s Perspective
Deeply confused by her recent workplace accusations, the woman headed online to seek further perspective from readers. “‘Stringing someone along’ is an intentional act”, one reader pointed out. “You didn’t go out of your way to spend time with him from what I can tell, you were just friendly when you ran into each other. Someone else’s misunderstanding is not your issue.”
The comment section was littered with comments suggesting the woman should report the incident to HR for various reasons. “I would mention this to HR to protect yourself in case he starts spreading rumors or whatever”, suggested one reader.
Many commenters expressed that they felt the woman was underreacting to the severity of Joey’s comments. “His comments could be construed as sexual harassment since he basically just admitted in front of everyone that he was only being nice to get in your pants”, one person wrote. “Definitely go to HR and tell them what happened – this needs to get on the record.”
A Common Sentiment
Many other commenters spoke up in agreement with the previous comment. “Yup – Joey’s comment is frankly disgusting”, another commenter grimaced. “He was only being nice to you on the off chance that it could lead somewhere down the line. That’s messed up… like can’t he just be nice to somebody at work for the hell of it?”
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