Globalization and Cultural Conflict
The authors (Gardner, et al., 2008, Author House, 82-83) explain that several IT and business professionals have been hired to transfer a business from an existing system to a completely automated system. This project was launched prior to the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001. The key question comes down to a leadership scenario: What leadership approach should be taken when two out of a dozen talented contractors that have been hired happen to be Islamic, and those two individuals ask for an hour off every Friday for religious purposes? This paper delves into that subject using narrative from the available literature, and from two books: Corporate Leadership Selection: Impact on American Business, Employees, and Society; and Managing Cultural Differences: Global Leadership Strategies for Cross-Cultural Business Success.
Gardner, et al., on Leadership
As an introduction to what Reginald J. Gardner writes about leadership in myriad business situations, on page 71-72 he explains that when the top leadership in a company behave ethically and with integrity, those leaders become de facto role models. Gardner claims that when leadership does show those traits, the corporation "will follow and emulate the behavior and attitudes…" (Gardner, 2008, Author House, 71). The way in which underlings become practitioners of the ethical leader is through communication of values that are shared company-wide, Gardner continues. Moreover, it doesn't happen through magic or through osmosis; in fact the top leadership must be willing to have discussions with employees about these values. Also, the leadership must train HR managers to make sure new hires are aware that there are expectations that they will in fact adhere to the integrity and ethics the executives in the company practice.
This concept is referred to as "The Trickle Down Effect," and it means exactly what it appears to mean, that when the highest levels of management behave ethically, the other tiers in the organization (including those on the bottom rung of the corporate ladder) will behave in similar ways (Gardner, 2008, Author House, 72). According to Gardner, there is a "positive correlation" between leaders who adhere to a high set of ethical standards, and "positive business results" (Gardner, 2008, Author House, 72).
The question of Muslims' prayer request post 9-11
Would team members have gone along with the decision to allow the two Muslim contractors to take time off on Fridays for their religious activities -- after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001? That is a worthy question because there was a great deal of hate and loathing -- and vicious stereotyping towards Muslims in the United States well before the terrorist attacks in 2001. In the Arab Studies Quarterly the author explains that there have been a "series of government laws and policies since the 1970's" that targeted Muslims and Arabs for "selective interrogation, detention, harassment, presumption of terrorist involvement," which resulted in deportation from the United States (Akram, 2002, 61). The author credits the media and Hollywood filmmakers for their "mythmaking" -- that Arabs in general and Muslims in particular are unwelcome in America -- and the media and filmmakers have advanced the stereotype of Arabs as "demonic terrorists and religious fanatics" (Akram, 2002, 62).
In the California Law Review, the author explains that the term "islamophobia" (defined as an "unfounded hostility towards Islam… [and therefore] fear or dislike of all or most Muslims") came about in 1997. It reflects the impact of negative stereotypes, including that: a) Islam is a "single monolithic bloc"; b) Islam has no values in common with any other culture; c) Islam is "inferior to the West -- barbaric, irrational, primitive, sexist"; d) Islam is violent and supports terrorism; e) Islam is a "political ideology";...
That is, there continues to be bias in the United States against individuals of the Islamic faith, notwithstanding the fact that the al Qaeda terrorists were not truly representing the Islamic faith. They were out to kill Americans in whatever way they could accomplish that ugly goal. They were nothing more than violent extremists who invented their justifying ideology for carnage based on selected passages in the Quran.
It seems reasonable to assume that notwithstanding the fear of terrorism and of Muslims per se, the leader of a group of highly skilled digital technicians should be alert enough to know that the terrorists are but a miniscule population within the community of Islam. He should be level-headed and aware through his knowledge of current events that the vast majority of Muslims who practice their faith reject violence against others. This majority of Muslims do not support using suicide bombers, or killing Westerners just because they come from America or England. In fact extremists who use the Islamic faith as justification for their bloody acts are not supported by the average person practicing the Muslim faith.
The Pew Research poll taken in September, 2013, more than two years after the death of Osama bin Laden, reflects that large percentages of Muslims reject extremism. For example, 67% of Muslims (in 11 Muslim countries) are "concerned about extremism" (Pew, 2013, p. 1). In most of the Muslim countries surveyed, "clear majorities…oppose violence in the name of Islam," including 89% of Muslims in Pakistan, 81% of Muslims in Indonesia, and 78% of Muslims in Nigeria (Pew, 2013, p. 1). And at least "six-in-ten Muslims in Lebanon, Tunisia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Egypt" are "concerned about Islamic extremism" (Pew, 2013, p. 2).
That having been explained, for any professional contractor to reject a Muslim's request to have off on Fridays so he can follow his faith is a mark of illogical thinking, and reflects deep-seated social prejudice. In the United States many Muslim Americans are victims of "racial and ethnic prejudice…" based on "misinformation," according to University of Georgia professor Alan Godlas (Shearer, 2013, p. 1). Hate crimes have "skyrocketed" since 9/11, Godlas explained, and the bias against Muslims in the U.S. is "dehumanizing" that group (Shearer, 2013, p. 1).
As recently as July 20, 2014, incidents in Brooklyn, New York against mosques, illustrated the tensions that still exist. A car reportedly circled a mosque in Bay Ridge and its passengers waved Israeli flags "and yelled anti-Islamic slurs" -- and someone in a car circling a Sheepshead Bay mosque hurled eggs at "elderly worshipers" (NY1 News, 2014). The President of the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge, Dr. Husam Rimawi, said that his center has enjoyed "good relationships with everybody around us…irrespective of their religion" (NY1 News, 2014, p. 2).
What does the Moran, Harris and Moran text say about cultural sensitivity?
On page 218 of the Moran, Harris and Moran text, the authors suggest that there is a need to be "culturally sensitive" when relocating to another country where another culture exists; of course this is not the same scenario as Gardner presents, but the narrative by Harris, et al., applies nonetheless (Moran, et al., 2011, Routledge, 218). The particular cultural and religious traditions that are embraced by Muslims should be respected and not criticized; the authors mention that in Middle Eastern countries "saving face" is very important, and in this case when the Muslim contractors (even after 9/11) asked for time off to pray on Fridays, to deny that request would be a slap in the face, and would also be embarrassing to the contractors in question (Moran, et al., 2011, Routledge, 218).
By stereotyping Muslim professionals as somehow connected to violence -- if any of the other ten talented professionals delved into stereotyping by using their own Christian values as a measuring stick -- the multi-cultural team would be basically torn apart. The leadership of this group of 12 is trying to be inclusive, and to build a consensus, using mutual respect as a guidepost for behaviors. But if even one of more of the other ten contractors made untoward comments or even subtle suggestions opposing giving the Muslims their time to pray on Fridays, that would spoil the working relationship the group had going, and would be a very unfavorable and intolerable situation for the leader to be in.
Also on page 218 of the Moran text, the authors posit that one should recognize the complexities of other cultures, avoiding the knee-jerk responses and reactions that lead to embarrassing situations based on the ignorance of other cultures (Moran, 2011, Routledge, 218). The customs of other cultures should be respected even though they may not be completely understood. And moreover, patience, understanding and tolerance of intercultural experiences, is especially vital for good leadership to show as a role model, when he is responsible for the behavior of others.
Of course Moran is essentially discussing foreign deployment, but…
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