Last week, an armed gunman in Sydney, Australia held a café of people hostage, resulting in his and two victims’ deaths. Coverage of the 16-hour standoff, featured countless images of the hostages being forced to raise a jihadist flag in the café’s window.
While it’s a tragic reality that such situations aren’t unheard of, the reaction of the Australian people was something I’ve never seen before.
People of the Islamic faith are often alienated, mistreated and subjected to hate crimes after such attacks from violent extremists. Though many Muslims condemn these acts, recent history has shown us that it doesn’t take long for prejudice and anger to be directed at the entire group of believers, even though they don’t agree with the actions of the offenders. Sadly, this phenomenon occurs so often it’s warranted its own word, Islamophobia.
That is, until last week.
Within hours of the incident’s end, Australians started a movement to rally against any resultant unjust treatment or vilifying of Muslims. The hashtag #IllRideWithYou was created on social media and was used over 150k times within 12 hours.
People of all walks of life, color, ages and beliefs demonstrated their refusal to alienate followers of Islam by offering to ride with them on public transportation.
“…the (presumably) Muslim woman sitting next to me on the train silently removes her hijab,” reads one of the hundreds of stories on Twitter. “…I ran after her at the train station, I said ‘put it back on. I’ll walk with u’. She started to cry and hugged me for about a minute – then walked off alone.”
As leaders, it’s essential to remember that a single incident or account never tells the whole story. And especially in these situations, we must commit to look deeper, evaluating others on the basis of their character.
This is why the CPT was founded. Despite the hundreds of thousands of CPAs and corporate leaders who do the right thing on a daily basis, the Enron and Madoff scandals of the early 2000’s caused people to lose trust in the financial system. In response, we set out to champion and develop the countless leaders who live and work ethically. Though they don’t often make the headlines, they far outnumber the bad apples.
But there’s still work to do. We don’t live in a perfect world. And even today, many of us still carry prejudices.
Take a look around you. Look at your fellow co-workers. What do you see? How do you view the diversity of others? Do you see a stereotype or an individual?
We live in a society where the actions of a few can damage the perception of many. Look at the years following the September 11 attacks. Some Americans shunned anyone wearing a turban, treating him with suspicion and contempt.
That’s ignorance and fear.
Now look at what many courageous Australians showed us last week by refusing to let one horrible act define their view of an entire group of people. That’s strength against injustice. That’s ethical leadership.
I’ll ride with that. Will you?
As Always… Ethics First!
— Ron Taylor
Student Programs and Development Specialist, NASBA Center for the Public Trust