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Religious Discrimination Rampant Against Muslim and Protestant Scientists

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Muslim and Protestant scientists are most likely to face religious discrimination at their workplace. According to a study co-authored by Christopher Scheitle, an assistant professor of sociology at West Virginia University (WVU) and Elaine Howard Ecklund, director of the Religion and Public Life Program at Rice University, the chances of Muslim scientists experiencing discrimination is higher than with other religious groups.

The study examined a survey of 879 biologists and 903 physicists working at different research institutions across the country and reported 63.6 percent of Muslim and 40.4 percent Protestant scientists facing discrimination on the job with some scientists believing that their religious identity plays an important role in perceptions of discrimination.

“Sociologists have evidence that U.S. Muslims are experiencing discrimination more broadly in U.S. society, but some of the dynamics our study picked up may be unique to the academy, such as the higher perception of discrimination among Protestant scientists,” Scheitle said.

The researchers found that Muslim biologists perceive discrimination 30 times more than their nonreligious counterparts, while the number stood at seven times for the Jewish and five times for the Protestant biologist.

The authors concluded that the higher perception of discrimination is related to the biologist’s religious identity, as they couldn’t find a possible explanation for the prevailing phenomenon during the survey.

“Tensions around religion and science are more concentrated in biology, with discussions of stem cells, evolution and similar issues,” Scheitle emphasized. “This profession may be one where people are very self-conscious of being religious, and we believe an individual’s self-identification as a religious biologist might actually fuel their perceptions of discrimination regardless of how much they are practicing that religion.”

A part of Religion Among Scientists in International Context, the study is aimed to understand how scientists view on gender, religion, and ethics.