The first conference in the U.S. on the subject of Political Islam in the Workplace will take place in Washington, D.C. on April 26, 2018 The event is co-sponsored by Forum on Islamic Radicalism and Management (FIRM), London Center for Policy Research and American Foundation for Democracy. Clarion Project spoke to event co-ordinator Dr. Leslie Shaw of FIRM:
Clarion: Back in 2016, CAIR described this planned conference as Islamophobic. Can you comment on that?
Leslie Shaw: CAIR’s opinion is driven by sectarian self-interest and promotion of a socio-political agenda.
Clarion: But the conference focuses only on Islamic and not other forms of radicalism.
Shaw: We are looking at one segment of a wide phenomenon. Other forms of radicalism exist — Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, left-wing, right-wing, animal rights activists, anti-globalists, eco-warriors, neo-luddites — but Islamic radicalism poses a greater threat than all of the others put together.
Clarion: Why political Islam in the workplace specifically?
Shaw: There is a plethora of conferences on the subject of radicalism in general and Islamic radicalism in particular, but they are usually restricted to specialists in certain areas. I attended a conference in Brussels on April 22 on the challenge of jihadist radicalization in Europe. There were over 250 people there and over 20 speakers but not one person from the business world. We want to open the subject up to corporations, because they are in the front line.
Clarion: Can you explain how?
Shaw: Corporations are soft targets for terrorist attacks, but aside from the threat of violence, they are also easy prey for Islamists deploying nonviolent tactics in pursuit of their goals.
Islamist employees may not end up committing acts of terrorism, but their behavior is certain to generate significant workplace conflict that undermines productivity and workforce cohesion. A recent survey of over 1,000 French managers revealed that 65% had to handle faith-based problems on an occasional or regular basis, ranging from absenteeism through collective praying to refusal to work with a female colleague.
So, in addition, to the security dimension, it is also an issue for human resources. In France, for example, Islamic radicalism is a growing phenomenon among employees in the City of Paris, the Paris Airport Authority, the Paris Transit Authority and the public education sector. It is also a problem in private firms. The French government is currently seeking to partner with the private sector to deal with the threat.
You are getting the same thing in the USA with the explosion in lawsuits filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against employers. These are more often than not instigated by CAIR.
Clarion: Isn’t that a legitimate Civil Rights Act Title VII issue?
Shaw: I think the spirit of Title VII has been perverted to further a political and ideological agenda. When an employer hires a worker, he is buying that person’s time. In a manufacturing plant operating with a lean production schedule, you can’t have a worker walking off the assembly line at times determined by a third party. When you take a job, you follow the employer’s rules.
Clarion: But not all demands for religious accommodation are radical.
Shaw: Our working definition of a radical is somebody whose determination to adhere to his principles or religion causes disruption in the workplace. A vegetarian should not apply for a job in a slaughterhouse and then file a Title VII complaint because it conflicts with his moral principles. A Muslim should not take a job in a brewery if it conflicts with his religion.
Clarion: Aren’t you concerned that such views could be branded as Islamophobic?
Shaw: The purpose of the conference is to debate these issues in an open forum. Any point of view can be countered by a rebuttal.
Clarion: You held a similar conference in Paris in November 2017. What was the response?
Shaw: Extremely positive. It was attended by senior executives from flagship European and U.S. corporations as well as delegates from the gendarmerie, national Police, military, intelligence, counter-terrorism and corporate security. People appreciated the fact that we tackled the subject in a direct manner.
Clarion: What differences do you see in the U.S. and European approach to the problem?
Shaw: In Europe, corporatations are gradually overcoming a reluctance to discuss these issues out of fear of accusations of Islamophobia, but in the USA the core value of religious freedom is being used by Islamists as an instrument to stifle debate.
Clarion: How can people access the survey you are conducting?
Shaw: The survey is not accessible to the public. It’s not an opinion poll. We are sending it directly to executives in various companies and sectors. If anybody wants to complete it, they can contact us at [email protected] We vet them before sending the link to make sure they are bona fide corporate officers.
Clarion: How does one register for the conference?
Shaw: People can apply to attend by clicking here (our website https://firmeurope.com) All applicants will be vetted and we will send them instructions on how to register. The list of participants will be classified.
Clarion: What have you discovered while organizing this conference?
Shaw: Apart from analysts and the security community, people are scared of Islamic radicalism. The academic and media establishment won’t touch it because of political correctness. Corporations are seeking help to mitigate the threat but behind closed doors. They won’t come out and discuss the issues in public. It is an Orwellian fear that plays into the hands of the global Muslim Brotherhood and its satellite organizations.
Clarion: Are you planning more conferences?
Shaw: Yes. The next one is on November 15, 2018 at the National Assembly, the French parliament. The conference will be a biannual event alternating between Paris and Washington.
Clarion: How will corporate attendees benefit from the conference?
Shaw: First, they will have the reassurance that they are not alone in facing the threat. Second, the conference will demonstrate that corporations can acquire tools to assess the risks, mitigate the threat, minimize the economic costs, vet personnel and potential hires, and shield themselves from litigation.
The business community has a right to openly, fearlessly and objectively discuss the real challenges posed by Islamic radicalism in the workplace and share their best practices and experience in dealing with it.
There is a lot of hysteria surrounding the subject of Islam, on both sides. We need to cast a real eye on what is going on and take steps to ensure that our socio-economic model and values remain intact.
Lawmakers have a key role to play in this process so that businesses are not at the mercy of religious pressure groups eager to hijack our freedoms for their own ends.