Hassan Mohamed, Founder and CEO of recruitment consultancy firm, Harrison Forbes, has placed more than 200 international professionals into blue-chip and growing UK companies, of whom over 40% have been from predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East and Asia.
He shares his experience as a Muslim of immigrant heritage in business, including how organisations can retain and support their Muslim staff, enabling them to produce their best work.
“My father, who is a Muslim and lives in Somalia, showed me the true meaning of hard work and how to reap the benefits, both financially and emotionally. He taught me how to respect money and business and work ethically, which is a core part of our religion. I took these learnings from my father back to the UK and began an apprenticeship in sales straight away.
“After underachieving in school, I was determined to make my mark in business and decided that I had a responsibility to provide for my family. My father now lives in Somalia full time, and although I am not the eldest brother, I took on the mantra of the family’s main breadwinner, despite being just a teenager. Juggling family life with making a mark in the world of business at such a young age was a challenge, but one that I rose to, and I soon formed a relocation business at the age of 20.
“I conceived the idea of Harrison Forbes whilst working for other people in the world of finance, and despite learning from them, I always knew that I needed to be my own boss at the earliest opportunity to fulfil my ambition. I am an impatient individual, so my greatest business challenge has been to bide my time and not rush things, despite my fast-paced ‘modus operandi’. Starting the business was scary as I was unsure whether people would accept me and want to do business with me. I was a young Black Muslim, after all.
“The opportunities were simply not there for people like me, particularly those with Muslim and Somali heritage. There is also a lack of trust in BAME entrepreneurs that I see afforded to those who benefit greatly from white privilege. We have to work 10 times as hard to get through the same door a white entrepreneur can stroll through. I hope that through my and others’ success, we can demonstrate that the world is changing for the better.
“I am now 24 and have been running my business for a few years, and I am determined to recruit more people from a Muslim background. As our company works in international recruitment, we present our clients with the best reasons to relocate to the UK.
“One method of persuasion is by discussing the diversity of the UK and the number of people living here who are immigrants such as myself. When I give them my example, it is a compelling one as they understand that you can be successful.
“I do feel very at home here, and I am seeing more and more young Muslims applying to work in my sector. Honestly, in my experience, I would say that the UK has a strong Muslim community.
“I am also on a mission to recruit more qualified and skilled people from a Muslim background to the UK. I am pleased to say that many UK businesses I work with are growing their overseas clients from Muslim predominant nations who mostly deal with oil and gas, energy, financial services, and big tech.
“When hiring an international candidate from a Muslim country, companies look at language skills and their understanding of the country, and that is very important if a skilled immigrant will do well and integrate into their new surroundings.
“Yet, companies should be careful when promoting and communicating their religious or cultural inclusivity on their company websites and careers literature. It has to be subtle; otherwise, they can run into difficulties.
“My advice to clients has always been to sensitively place imagery of Muslim professionals on their media literature such as websites and brochures. By seeing Muslims either working there or having an involvement will demonstrate cultural inclusivity.
“Social media can be a good, positive space to wish everyone ‘Happy Ramadan’ or ‘Ramadam Kareem’. Happily, more and more businesses are respecting Ramadan in 2021 than ever before. Companies I work with are asking their ‘non-Islamic’ staff to refrain from eating in the office when people are fasting as a show of respect to their colleagues.
“Additionally, bosses are permitting their employees to start work a bit later in the day. This flexible approach is granting those who observe Ramadan a chance to conserve their energy and ultimately make them work better and be more productive.
“But overall, if you are a Muslim who observes Ramadan, if you have an employer who is making extra allowances for your religious and cultural beliefs, then that will be repaid in loyalty and productivity, and then everyone benefits.”
By Hassan Mohamed, Founder and CEO of Harrison Forbes.