I won't pretend to know what actually happened to Mr Shah but having read the articles I have little doubt that at the very least Mr Shah felt tormented. I am therefore at a loss to understand why his employer did not act more decisively. At the very least, he should have been removed from the direct supervision of the two individuals he felt were tormenting him.
On the other hand, no matter what colour, creed or nationality you are, you have to develop a realistic level of sensitivity regarding comments and taunts that come your way. Every individual has some aspect of themselves or their religion or their appearance or their nationality that is commented on. As a Greek, or "bubble", I have often had my nationality or some aspect of it commented upon. We all have to develop a level of tolerance, and a sense of humour.
Yet this incident has been promoted to the status of industry norm – despite the fact that Mr Shah himself stated that he had previously never experienced racist abuse. Maybe the problem was that two mindless individuals decided that they would take their frustrations out on the first Muslim they encountered after 11 September. Yet from this we are encouraged to believe the conclusion that the industry is rotten and racist.
Indeed we are again told (see leader in last week's Building) that 2% of those working in the industry are from ethnic minorities. This figure allows politicians, civil servants and consultants to commission endless reports on diversity, yet when we instigated a spot survey of all our sites, two years ago, we found 16.9% of our employees were from minorities. What's more, five large concrete specialists did the same, and their figures varied from 15% to 18%. I am also aware of a large client that undertook such a survey on two large sites and found their figure came out at 17%. Some three years ago, the then minister of construction quoted a figure of 1.9% ethnic minorities employed in the industry in one of his speeches. We all know about statistics, but should we allow these statistical myths to be forever perpetuated.
The story of Mr Shah was more than worthy of being reported. It's the conclusions that are drawn from that story and the statistics that accompany it that do not represent our industry.
Stef Stefanou is chairman of concrete trade association Construct and of contractor John Doyle Group.