Why Not Show Your Face to the World?

With todays class period focusing on “Faith and Culture in the International Workplace,” it follows that the current event reported should highlight a key battle around the world: how should governments and businesses respond to the religious use of Islamic head coverings commonly known as burkas?

On September 22nd, voters of the Ticino Canton in Switzerland voiced their opinions. A “Canton” in Switzerland is the rough equivalent of a state here in the US. A resounding two thirds of voters backed a bill that stated: nobody in public streets or squares may veil or hide their face.” While the wording of the plan does not specifically mention Islamic practice, burkas or niqabs, the law is aimed predominately at Muslim women. Giorgio Ghiringhelli, the man responsible for initiating the bill, states that the ban “puts a stop to the inevitable spread of niqabs and burkas.” This xenophobia has played a major role on the international scale since 2011, when France outlawed the wearing of burqas in Public. While the bill was rejected upon reaching the Swiss parliament, it emphasizes growing tensions around the world that not only raise issues of human rights, but also lead us to question the impacts on international interactions.

At the time, the article rose questions of the laws effect on tourism. Surely no Muslim women would travel to Switzerland with this law in effect. But many people were not worried, believing that regardless of the law, not many people from Arab nations visit Switzerland anyway. But on the large scale, these types of laws could greatly influence international business practices because they limit the spread of businesses practices. Any company with origins in an Islamic country would most likely think twice about creating a branch of business in a country that considers outlawing its basic beliefs of female modesty. Thereby causing any country with a law outlawing burqas or other religious head covering to lose a significant amount of business.

This text was written and presented by Mr. Nima Malek, Student at the McDonough School of Business of Georgetown University in the course on International Business (STRT-261-01) on October 28th, 2013. You can contact the author here.