Tuesday, December 01, 2009

An MBA Analysis of the Swiss Minaret Ban

A good solution is rarely a single course of action. A good solution always looks at the big picture, considers various relationships between all factors, and then coordinates multiple activities to realize the big dream.

A good solution is both complex and simple at the same time. Let me analyze the Swiss minaret ban using an MBA perspective.

Here I will talk about the problem, my executive summary, then an analysis of the factors (Porter's 5 force and SWOT), before breaking down my solution.

The Problem

The Swiss have banned the construction of minarets in mosques.

Many seem to think this is the problem. To me, this is a symptom.

Here is how I frame the problem.

There is a growing intolerance in Switzerland towards practicing Islam the way Muslims want in Switzerland.

This to me is the bigger picture, as well as more specific. We can already see that there's two issues (underlined) that can be tackled.

The Executive Summary

We need to implement "Forward, Switzerland" which is the name I give to an Integration Plan for Switzerland and her Muslims.

Its target is to ensure Swiss Muslims fit seamlessly into the Swiss culture while Switzerland becomes more accommodating of special needs of its own citizens. All this will be achieved with a focus on traditional Swiss values of secularism, tolerance and goodwill. In the end, Switzerland will emerge a stronger nation, an example to others, a bastion of liberty - hence the name "Forward, Switzerland".

The Analysis

Undertaking a Porter's 5 force analysis on Swiss Islam, we can make the following conclusions.
Suppliers: People who will become Muslim - they have high power because they love the values of freedom, secularism, liberty and traditional Swiss values.
Buyers: People who are already Muslim - have definite demands, fitting in with the Swiss tradition and environment.
Substitutes: Other existing religions - have low power because traditionally the conversion rate of Muslims into other religions have been low.
New Entrants: Other new religions - also have low power as Islam is an established religion.
Rivalry within: many Islamic sects who tend to nullify each other (same day Eid anyone?).

Therefore we can draw the conclusion from this that the Islamic community in Switzerland must address traditional Swiss values of liberty and tolerance, while trying to unify the Islamic community itself. This will also lead it to build a better brand image.

Let's come to the more interesting SWOT analysis.
Strengths: Islam is an established religion, and in Europe it has a history. Support can be garnered for objectives (including money) from the wider Muslim community.
Weakness: Swiss population of Muslim is small, plus Islam has a terrible PR problem. Brand image in Switzerland is one of violence that has to be changed.
Opportunity: The sudden prominence of the Islamic community as the victimized, particularly in secular Europe, and a position of sympathy from European leaders.
Threats: The hot headed extremists within the community can hamper any dreams.

Therefore we can draw the conclusion that the Islamic community in Switzerland must act quickly to realize the sympathy, must control its extremists and try and garner support from the wider Muslim community for its plan as soon as possible. Remaking the brand image will take a long time, but it has to be started.

A third part of the analysis, that I will not go into here for sake of brevity, involves breaking down the salient factors (immigration, rituals, cultural baggage, xenophobia, history) and understanding the relations between them, and how they play into the solution.

The Solution - Forward, Switzerland

1. Build Mosques

There is nothing in the law that says a mosque cannot be built in Switzerland. A key objection to obtaining local permits for building mosques in Switzerland has been the construction of minarets. Often, racist elements of the local community would object to a mosque being built because it had a minaret in it. The objection was to the minaret (You can read this lengthy article).

Well, in Islam, a mosque can be a room, or even a clean ground. Minarets were historically never part of the mosque and only started appearing 80 years after the death of the Prophet. Many Muslims don't know it, but even domes and arches that we now associate with mosques were only popularized during the Ottomans.

Switzerland and her Muslims needs more mosques, and now with no objection to minarets (no minarets permitted by law) the construction process of mosques should be faster.

2. Raise Money

Money will be needed for construction of mosques, for charitable initiatives, for public relations and for upkeep of Islamic institutions in Switzerland. Money exists in Switzerland (the country is super rich - and therefore her citizens - Muslims included). The wider Islamic community has funds also.

3. Mosques support charity

Every new mosque in Switzerland should come with a soup kitchen attached. When a neighborhood gets a mosque, they are also getting food and support for the needy and homeless in the area. This is the tradition of the Prophet, the tradition of the early Islamic community in Medina and the way mosques have traditionally worked.

4. Read our history

Do you know how the Prophet got around to establishing an Islamic empire from zero in Medina? He arrived as a refugee, a leader of fellow refugees, and what did he do?

Ya aiuhan nas
O people.

Ibsus Salam
Exchange the greetings of peace with one another.

Wa atimut tawaam
Feed those who are hungry.

Wa sallu bil laili wannaasu niyam
Pray in the night when the rest of the people are asleep.

Idkhulul jannata bissalaam
Surely you will enter Paradise in peace.

I deal with that in detail here.

Note: Feed those who are hungry.

Of similar interest should be the Treaty of Hudaibiyah, and how the Prophet turned a position of disadvantage to his advantage. The Treaty was hampering to Muslims in a legal, strategical, and military fashion.

Or so they thought.

5. Have Convert Outreach and Progress Programs

Following Islamic commandments, Muslims in Switzerland must reach out to non-Muslim citizens. Outreach programs that boost conversion rates (hence more mosques and $$$s are needed) should be started.

Not only must they try and convert people into their faith, they must also try and ensure converts are looked after, AFTER conversion. Often, new converts fall prey to extremists, or become disillusioned and leave, or fall into hard times.

A good proper new convert strategy will ensure not only that Muslims in Switzerland address their problem of small numbers, but will also change the Islamic community in Switzerland itself to become more in tune with Swiss values. This also reduces the xenophobia and increases cultural acceptance of Islam in Switzerland by her own people.

6. Deal with extremists

Any extremist risks harming the brand image of Islam in Switzerland and must be dealt with immediately. Muslims in Switzerland needs to focus on their own issues (Palestine, Afghanistan can come later). Extremism is not tolerated in Islam nor in Switzerland. Islam stands for justice, freedom and equality, and so does Switzerland. If people don't think so, it is the job of the brand manager (i.e. Muslims in Switzerland) to ensure people think so.

Muslims also have a bad habit of hiding their extremists or making excuses for them. This has to stop.


This multi-pronged approach will ensure that not only do Muslims change themselves in Switzerland for the better, to become more in tune with Islamic beliefs AND Swiss beliefs, but that Swiss resistance to Islamic principles is also reduced.

In the end, the following of this plan "Forward, Switzerland" will ensure proper integration of Islam in Switzerland to the benefit of both communities, which are really one community after all.


Muslimas Oasis said...

MashaAllah I think this is a really interesting take and I think you bring up some fantastic suggestions and solutions.

Anonymous said...

haha, is this what happens when you run out of assignments?

I won't critique the analysis. I'll just say InshaAllah things improve.

Anonymous said...

It's a good 'Forward Switzerland' plan.As you said,such plans take a very long time to achieve results.

The fact that the Swiss feel threatened with the building of the minaret shows that the muslims have lots of work to do if they want to intergrate successfully in Swiss culture.Inshallah things will work out for the best for both communities there.

M&M said...

very interesting.

and lol! I agree with geeki... this is what happens when there is too much of porter n swot in every class

mezba said...

Thanks all. Yes, I DID have too much time on my hands last week!

Faatih said...

Very constructive blog in marked contrast to some of the emotional comments being made by Muslims elsewhere.

mezba said...

Thanks. I believe letting emotion rule all the time is very destructive.

Hicham Maged said...

This is an excellent action plan for this problem. I am inviting you also to read my input about this tht I wrote few days ago http://blog.hichamaged.net/flying-with-black-wings/

null said...

This is one of the best things I've read on the issue. Clear and concise with solutions instead of just the usual oh woe is us.

Point #3 - great insight. If only we were to hold true to our own history and traditions, people will be begging us to build masjids in their area. Inshallah, one day.

mezba said...

Hicham: thanks! I will read up your piece iA.

Null: thank you. I agree, we need to revisit our history.

mezba said...

I wanted to post an interesting snippet of news here.

Swiss antagonist of minarets embraces Islam - RENOWNED Swiss politician Daniel Streich, who rose to fame for his campaign against minarets of mosques, has embraced Islam.

Op ed News

The Nation