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To mark Race Equality Week we hear from the Muslim Sports Foundation about their efforts to ensure people's differences within the organisation are celebrated and turned into a strength to meet their mission.

5th February 2024

by Sahiba Majeed
Marketing and insight, Muslim Sports Foundation

As we start Race Equality Week, it's important that we take a moment to reflect on the significance of addressing barriers to race equality.

Nelson Mandela once said: "No-one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion."

This belief is central to our mission at the Muslim Sports Foundation (MSF), as we consider that individuals are a product of their environment and that they become exactly what they surround themselves with.  

We feel that it is important not to hide the issue of race inequality but to talk openly about it, and so we make a lasting promise to work towards eliminating it for a more equitable and inclusive society. 

This commitment is reflected in our diverse workforce, which resonates with the communities we serve and is reflective of their views and needs.

The shared lived experiences of our team members provide invaluable insights into cultural, religious and socio-economic influences on sports participation, making our approach authentic and effective.

At MSF, we are dedicated to empowering British Muslims through inclusive sport and physical activity and our vision – RIPE (reach, inspire, promote, empower) – drives us to champion inclusivity and diversity in these areas.

We aim to reach every British Muslim, inspire an active lifestyle, promote physical activity within British Muslim communities and empower grassroots communities with equal access and opportunities in sport and recreation.

A diverse but relatable organisation

The theme to this year's Race Equality Week - #ListenActChange - resonates deeply with the work we do.  

MSF is distinguished by its workforce, which is composed of individuals from multicultural backgrounds but with similar lived experiences to those we serve.

A group of women wearing veils play indoors badminton.

This shared experience is the backbone of our authenticity and effectiveness.

Our team members, having grown up in Muslim communities themselves, bring invaluable insights into the different elements that influence sports participation. 

Our commitment to listening is reflected in our extensive national community participant survey, which received over 5,000 responses.

We have a robust network of mosques and madrassahs, plus partnerships with national governing bodies, Active Partnerships and local authorities.

Our approach is rooted in the lived experience of our team members and their deep connections with family and social networks, so we act collaboratively and through empathy and understanding.

Our actions are reflective of community views and needs, based on learning, campaigns, insights and data collection focused on equity, equality, diversity and inclusion.

The shared lived experiences of our team members provide invaluable insights into cultural, religious and socio-economic influences on sports participation, making our approach authentic and effective.

We strive to make sure our organisation is a safe, happy and fulfilling place for our colleagues to work and benefit from a diverse culture and leadership.  

And in this environment, it becomes the responsibility of all colleagues within the organisation to help bring and implement change. 

Everyone has a part to play regardless of role or position, so we empower everyone in our organisation, regardless of their ethnicity or background, to have equal access and realise their full potential. 

More than looks

We acknowledge and appreciate racial differences, recognising and valuing differences both within and between races. 

It is important to acknowledge, however, that when we talk about racial diversity at work, we are not just talking about diversity of skin colour or physical characteristics, but differences of all kinds.

In addition, diversity incorporates various viewpoints, values and concepts.

Our mission is to unite British Muslim communities, break barriers and thrive together, ensuring equality and opportunity. 

As a fairly new organisation (we were founded in 2020), we acknowledge that race equality in the workplace is crucial and we have started to put in measures to attract a wider, more diverse talent pool to reflect the community we serve and our wider audience, by acknowledging cultural holidays, mixing up our teams and ensuring fair opportunities and equal pay.

We have identified levels of ethnic diversity within our workforce to establish any cultural barriers, which may be contributing to workplace inequalities, and so try to avoid generalisations such as ‘BAME’ and ‘South Asian’.

Instead, we refer to 'ethnic minorities' and are mindful of the usage of language and terminology in relation to race equality and wider diversity and inclusion.   

We also ensure that race equality is embedded into our vision, mission, values, strategy and business plans, plus we have ideas on what we can do to improve inclusivity in the workplace, including the aim to create a new equality and diversity policy that embraces fairness, respect and equal opportunity.  

We will ensure that we proactively train in equality, diversity and unconscious bias and have zero-tolerance of incidences of bullying, discrimination or racism towards people we work with or elsewhere.

Creating safe spaces for our workforce to speak about race, discrimination and lack of inclusion is at the front and centre of what we do and who we are.

As MSF continues its journey, we aspire to have a louder voice upstream, with more honest co-production and collaboration.

Our aim is not just to be a part of the chorus, but to play a lead role in this crucial movement towards race equality in sports and beyond.

With #ListenActChange as our guiding principle, we are committed to making a meaningful difference to the lives of our workforce and of the wider British Muslim community and to contributing to a more equitable and inclusive society.

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