Lecturer criticised over “short-sighted” comments

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A university lecturer has come under fire for his “disappointing and short-sighted” comments after implying Muslims don’t make good employees.

Dr Raymond Richards – who teaches American history and religion at the University of Waikato –commented on a Z Energy Facebook post late last week.

The post – which was about workplace diversity – featured a photograph of a Z Energy employee wearing a turban.

"Who needs employees if they stop work five times per day to talk to an imaginary being?" asked Richards, apparently confusing the Sikh employee with a Muslim.

Bev Cassidy-Mackenzie, chief executive of Diversity Works New Zealand, said Richards was misinformed and urged New Zealand employers to embrace workplace diversity.

“The comments from Dr Richards are disappointing and short-sighted,” she told HRD. “A diverse workforce gives organisations a competitive edge – they can access new markets, connect with new customers, and improve their bottom line.”

She also said organisations would reap the rewards if they ensured employees felt comfortable being their real selves at work – regardless of religion, cultural beliefs, family commitments or sexual orientation.

“Not only can we learn from other cultures, experiences and working styles, but having another viewpoint can enhance decision-making and result in an engaged, high-performance business culture,” she said.

Richards’ employer has also spoken out about the incident and has promised to investigate.

"The University of Waikato does not condone language or actions that perpetuate hate, discrimination or harmful stereotypes,” said Alice Clements, director communications and external relations.

“We are an institution that values diversity and have clear expectations of staff conduct,” she continued. “We will be examining this matter carefully."

Richards, however, is yet to back down.

“I'm speaking as an individual, expressing my own personal opinion,” he told NZ Herald. "I think it's very important people exercise their freedom of speech and not be intimidated.”

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