The Fatwa Hotline Edition

Today, we discuss the fact that it is better to understand than not specifically in regard to Islam.

The Fatwa Hotline Edition

Ignorance can kill you. It can also hurt a business and lead to unethical content. One kind of ignorance is the simple unwillingness of men to get it, to realize that women have a different experience of the workplace than they do. The idea that your experience is typical is one we have trouble shaking. We devote considerable mental energy to finding ourselves “normal” even mundane.

014-1But the facts are otherwise. We live in bubbles of meaning. Don’t believe me? How about this? A recent poll shows that 63% of Republican men believe sexism is over.  That’s a real bubble. Hopefully, you don’t need me to reiterate the grim statistics on women in the workplace to find the idea that sexism exploded in a bubble of political correctness to be nonsense.

Of course, we can’t know everything but we can try to learn essential things like “how to cross the street” and “what indicates someone is angry.” Knowing that different sexes, races and belief systems are treated differently is important knowledge to both employer and fellow employee. A little sensitivity  and knowledge is good.

While I begin by discussing women in the workplace, my focus today is on religion.

I came across this article in the Guardian. It is called –

The fatwa hotline: ‘We have heard everything’

It can be read in its entirety here.

I think it is one of the best reads I’ve seen in many days. For one thing, it clarified my understanding of what a fatwa is and how hard followers of Islam work at their religion. And I often found it humorous and fascinating.

In the UAE, they have a hotline to answer questions about what should and should not be done as Muslims. There is one for women and a much more elaborate one for men.

What’s a fatwa and where does it come from?

(from the article)

A fatwa is not merely an opinion, however. It must be based on the verses of the Qur’an or the hadith, or the opinions of previous generations of Muslim scholars across 1,400 years of history, or, in the rare cases when those sources do not provide an answer, well-argued logic, to come up with a completely new ruling. These complexities tend to be missing from many self-styled Islamic experts, whose opinions are just a quick Google search away. You can find fatwas giving permission to behead captives or, in the case of Isis, take women as sex slaves. This free-for-all is why the Emiratis have taken steps to direct people towards approved scholars.

“On the internet, not everything is correct,” Zaidi says. “You ask a simple question and get many opinions. I believe it is better to go to a specialist if you have a problem.”

“Most questions from Muslims will have to do with their relationship with the divine and their ability to fulfil that for which they will be rewarded not in this world but in the world to come,” says Justin Stearns, an American associate professor and head of the Arab Crossroads Studies programme at New York University Abu Dhabi. I meet Stearns in a cafe in the sprawling pale stone campus surrounded by miles of sand on Saadiyat Island on the north side of Abu Dhabi. He has a short, greying beard and peppers his speech with fluent Arabic as he types on a silver MacBook. “In the marketplace of religious opinion, if you are just an average Muslim out there, you’d look to someone who can separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to religious authority,” he says. “Here you have the state doing that.”

What you should do.

I recommend you read this. One of the issues in the current election is the status of the followers of Islam in the United States, and, of course, all of us are likely at some point in the future to encounter other religions and it is better to have actual knowledge than the lurid fantasies of the Internet or talk radio.

As a matter of business ethics, an understanding of different religions, their ethical systems and beliefs on business is critical and should be part of every four year business degree although currently it is not a requirement. That we have a separation of church and state does not imply a separation of business and religion (although several of my students have claimed just that). The different ethical systems in play in society affect how we think and act. Business should pay attention.

James Pilant

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