On November 16, 2017, the world’s first management conference on the subject of Islamic Radicalism in the Workplace will take place in Paris. Clarion Project spoke to event organizer Dr. Leslie Shaw, president of the Forum on Islamic Radicalism and Management and an associate professor at ESCP Europe Business School.
Clarion Project: This conference was originally scheduled to take place in Washington, D.C. in July 2016 but you cancelled it. At the time, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) issued a press release stating they “welcomed the postponement of an Islamophobic conference targeting constitutionally-protected religious accommodations in the workplace.” Why was the original conference cancelled?
Dr. Leslie Shaw: We cancelled the event for two reasons. First, it coincided with the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, which meant that attendance would have been less than anticipated. Second, two of our key speakers were overseas.
The cancellation actually turned out to be a good thing, because since then, we have set up a dedicated team to organize it, and we have conducted an in-depth survey targeting employers in Europe, the US, Canada and Australia.
The results of that survey demonstrate beyond question that Islamic radicalism is a major concern in the workplace.
Clarion: CAIR described your conference as Islamophobic. Can you comment on that?
Shaw: CAIR’s opinion is driven by sectarian self-interest and promotion of a particular agenda.
Clarion: But your survey and conference focus 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 Islamic radicalism in the workplace?
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 in early September. There were around 100 people there including a dozen speakers but not one person from the business world. I want to open the subject up to corporations, because they are in the front line.
Clarion: Can you explain how?
Shaw: Many business sectors are targets for the Islamic State: airports, airlines, public transit, hotels, shopping malls, the energy industry, restaurants, bars, etc.
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 public education. It is also a problem in the private sector, as our survey proves.
Clarion: A security threat?
Shaw: That is only one aspect. There is also a “soft jihad” going on in terms of growing demands for accommodation of Islamic religious practices on the job.
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 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. There is no need for name-calling.
Clarion: What has the response been?
Shaw: Overwhelming. So far over 300 companies have completed our survey. We have selected around 15 from over 40 potential speakers.
Clarion: How can people access the survey ?
Shaw: The survey is not accessible to the public. We are sending it directly to executives in target companies and sectors. If anybody wants to complete it they can contact us at [email protected]. We will vet them before sending the link to make sure they are bona fide corporate officers.
Clarion: What about registration for the conference ?
Shaw : People can apply to attend via 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 and name-badges will be optional.
Clarion: Are you charging people to attend?
Shaw: The registration fees are far lower than for other conferences on the subject. Considering the quality of the people who will be speaking, €150 for a private delegate and €500 for a corporate is extremely low. We will have the world’s top experts on the stage. Ten of the presentations will be in English, while the other five will be in French with simultaneous translation.
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, political correctness oblige. 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: Is this a one-off event?
Shaw: No, in 2018, we will hold a conference in Washington, D.C. and possibly a second one in Paris. The goal is to run it twice a year, once in Europe and once in the US.
Clarion: How will attendees benefit from the conference?
Shaw: First, the reassurance that they are not alone in facing the threat. Second, the understanding that they can equip themselves to deal with it by acquiring tools to assess the risks, mitigate the threat and minimize the economic costs, vet personnel and potential hires and shield themselves from litigation.
The business community has a right to openly and fearlessly discuss in an objective way 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 cold, hard eye on what is going on and take steps to ensure that our socio-economic model and values remain intact.