Atheist and Jewish staff members at New York University’s Abu Dhabi campus in the United Arab Emirates were once forced to lie about their religious beliefs on official government documents.
Prior to February 2012, prospective Jewish and atheist Academic Fellows were unable to accurately identify their religious affiliations when applying for work visas, according to two former Academic Fellows personally affected. Instead, they were required to choose from a limited list of religious affiliations that included the options of Muslim, Christian, Hindu and Buddhist, among others, according to Associate Vice Chancellor of Global Programs and former faculty member Josh Taylor, who was directly affected by this.
One Jewish Academic Fellow hand-wrote “Jewish” on the Visa form since it wasn’t listed and received a call from NYU HR representative Wasim Liaqat:
Though the call was brief and the instructions were obscure, the advisor remembers Liaqat advising them to misidentify their religious affiliation on the government document. The Academic Fellow said they were then told to pick from a list of eight acceptable religions.
The good news is that Abu Dhabi changed its visa policies by 2012, which means this is no longer a problem. Still, the fact that it was a problem is something we need to think about. Staff members at a major school like NYU should be able to identify however they please, regardless of where they happen to be based.
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