Dear Ethix – Issue 31

Ethix in Saudi Arabia

I came to know about Ethix through a web search on “ethics.” I am a business/technologist with a focus on banking and want to understand the limits of technology and its impact on development. This led me to study Islamaic Banking and Finance where I found ethics plays a significant role in the actual banking operations. I am now convinced this is a very important area of study to be pursued further, and am working on a project to promote this field of study by establishing a foundation for ethics and development. I am also doing a doctorate on the subject Technology and Development, a case study of Middle Eastern societies.

Thanks and regards,

Mohammed A.Alam
The National Commercial Bank
Jedah, Saudi Arabia

Ethix in Nigeria

I want to express my profound gratitude for mailing the Ethix magazine to me. I enjoy the excellent articles. They have made a great impact in my life and totally affected, positively, the way I view corporate organizations.

Operating in a society where things run crosswise of business ethics and values, the damage is really enormous compared to what is on paper. Here, we are faced with undue pressure in affecting within a workplace what is right and ought to be done. Not long ago, I had the privilege of speaking to a large number of leaders from different organizations on work/leadership ethics. Ethix magazine was a wonderful resource for me. Understanding ethics is paying off in ordering things around me.

I will protest that IBTE isn’t doing enough and should extend its olive branch to Nigeria by coming here and sharing a seminar. I wish I could be of help in its making.

Again, you are doing a masterful work. Stay with it. Happy five-year celebration.

God bless you richly,

Rev. Mark Anthony Ibekwe
Executive Director, African Rural Interserve
Lagos, Nigeria

Religion & Business

While there certainly “can be no dispute that religions have had significant influence on business,” I thought that David Gill’s short piece on religion and business struck a hopeful and positive note that is entirely unwarranted.

To assert that business is private and the state is public, therefore the separation of church and state issue does not pertain, is perhaps technically correct but culturally short-sighted. Business is a public institution in the sense that our economy is driven by, regulates and is structured by businesses of all sizes. Their widespread “public” ownership certainly alters considerably the legal fiction that a corporation is a private person. Business is not private in the same sense that my own personal thoughts and beliefs are.

Second, and most important, is the question of faith and tolerance. If my actions are based on my faith, that is, on values that I absolutely know are correct (and yours are wrong), I have no motive for tolerating other viewpoints. Indeed, I have lots of reason to resist and overcome those viewpoints wherever I encounter them and by whatever means I deem appropriate. A dispute between two conflicting articles of faith is not a matter of “finding common ground” and “building respect.” It’s a cultural clash that is best ignored as much as possible—that is, relegated to the private sphere—by the state.

Even more telling, however, is the conflict between faith and profit as bases for judgment and evaluation. Unless a business seeks actively to limit its customers to those holding specific religious beliefs (e.g. support for or opposition to abortion) there is likely to be negative business value in an organization taking such an opinion.

The parenthetical statement in Mr. Gill’s essay, that, should an employee’s religion distract from their performance, it would be woeful, is tellingly blind to the realities of such a thought. Of course, my employer would take a dim view of anything that distracts from my performance. But understand that the list of such things could include the religious practices of management. I might be just as distracted by the Praise Jesus prayer at the start of the Sales Meeting as by the belief that charging interest is immoral.

Jim McQuaid
Chapel Hill, NC

Response from David Gill

It is culturally short-sighted to pretend that religion can be bracketed out or wished away, especially in our global era. Your statements on faith and tolerance are just not true. Everyone, religious or not, makes assumptions and draws conclusions that are based on incomplete evidence. The Christians I know best would never say that they are absolutely correct on everything or possess all knowledge or are any better than anyone else or wish to silence other viewpoints.

I am not naive about the potential downside. The point I was making was that it is worth exploring the religious backdrop to the values and habits people (employees, customers) bring to the workplace and marketplace. Isn’t it shortsighted not to talk about this if you are thinking of developing operations in a new Muslim or Hindu environment or near an Amish or Pentecostal stronghold? Pretending that religion has nothing to do with people’s choices—or that it is better to bury our heads in the sand—-is naive.