Companies these days are global, and yet, many of them don’t understand what interfaith dialogue is about. Today’s guest, Shakila Ahmad, is President and Chair of the Board of the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati. Her life’s work is to help others understand interfaith dialogue and implement it in their daily lives, so their leadership can make their company a better place to work, and their communities a better place to live.
Listen to the Episode:
- Shakila is an immigrant to the US. At 9 years old, her family came here so her father could become a professor in the States’ education system. Shakila is a self-professed ‘Cincinnati girl,’ and she shares her journey that started in Pakistan and what has compelled her to be the kind of leader who seeks to unite through similarities rather than categorize through differences.
- Shakila began her career at IBM, and her time there inspired her to create a business with her husband that follows the model of community involvement and education, which in her case, focuses on the topic of interfaith and tolerance.
- All across the country, business leaders are partnering with communities to make a difference, and Shakila shares some of the greatest opportunities to do so. She believes that this type of involvement is what takes a company from ‘good’ to ‘great.’
- There are many ways you, as a business leader, can get involved. It can be as simple as asking someone like Shakila to speak at your company for a brown bag lunch, but the implications of this are far-reaching. It’s not just something you’re doing for your company. When you educate your employees, what they learn goes with them to their personal lives.
- Shakila is passionate about understanding what interfaith means and she shares a poignant reminder: learning about other people’s faith and understanding them doesn’t make you any less than you are. If anything, it should make your own faith stronger, your life enriched. Instead, people focus too much on differences and end up creating discord.
- One of the best ways to break through prejudice and discrimination is to ‘know your neighbor.’ Shakila shares what she has been doing to promote healthy and vibrant communities, and it is all about getting people together to learn about one another. This concept extends beyond faith and race. Poverty, domestic violence, and social services needs are also front and center.
- The dialogue around tolerance and kindness doesn’t just happen on the macro level. Instead, every one of us, whether we’re business leaders or not, needs to be aware of what we’re saying around our own families, especially our children who model our behavior. Mike and Shakila talk about how the little things we say can have a major impact on the community around us.
- Our corporations and businesses are worldwide these days, and never before have we needed diversity training as desperately as we do now. Shakila shares what she learned in working with GE. How can you apply the wisdom and dialogue to your own company?
- Shakila leaves us with some sage advice on how you can move your company forward to greater harmony within and positive social change based around it. Most important among those: don’t assume you know what another person is all about. Have an open mind and learn.
Links from this episode:
Interfaith dialogue refers to cooperative, constructive, and positive interaction between people of different religious traditions (i.e., “faiths”) and/or spiritual or humanistic beliefs, at both the individual and institutional levels.” ~Wikipedia