Faith and business are powerful forces for peace

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Tayyibah Taylor (1952-2014) | CEO & CoFounder, Azizah Magazine (WOW Publishing, Inc.), USA

Case Study Outline

  1. → Tayyibah Taylor Video (above)
  2. → Learning Objectives
  3. → Main Category of Action
  4. → Tayyibah Taylor’s Story
  5. → Summary of Case
  6. → Interview with Tayyibah Taylor’s Daughter
  7. → Introduction to the USA
  8.      – Demographics and Economy
  9.      – Religious Demographics
  10.      – Conflict and Violence related to Religion
  11. → More About Tayyibah Taylor
  12. → Discussion Questions
  13. → Media and Added Resources

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Learning Objectives

Tayyibah Taylor (1952-2014), cofounder of Azizah Magazine, is a powerful example of looking beyond stereotypes. Ms. Taylor was a tireless international voice for Muslim women everywhere. Through her Azizah magazine and advocacy efforts, she helped people of all faiths to broaden their perceptions of the lives and potential of Muslim women as she worked to reveal their true accomplishments and talent. Her business, which continues, helps people see beyond stereotypes of “the other” and focus on how diversity can bring greater economic success to communities.

The learning objectives for this case study include:

  1. 1. Niche markets in publishing offer ways to create a business model that is sustainable and advances interfaith understanding, religious freedom and peace.
  2. 2. A leader with a vision can create a powerful company and issue spokesperson.
  3. 3. Women often face multiple forms of discrimination simultaneously; stereotype-breaking initiatives like Azizah Magazine are a powerful way to counter such prejudices.
  4. 4. Successful initiatives to advance interfaith understanding, religious freedom and peace involve breaking stereotypes. This also presents business opportunities.

    Main Category of Action

    Core business

    Championing interfaith understanding and peace through a company’s core business operations, including internal procedures, human resources hiring practices, training, product/service development, sourcing policies, supply chains, as well as the development of products and services that promote interfaith understanding and peace.


Tayyibah’s Story

When Tayyibah Taylor died in 2014, her obituaries were full of the titles of this accomplished woman — entrepreneur, magazine founder, peace activist, feminist, mother of five, sister, mentor, teacher and friend.

All of those roles Taylor played were as important as the two roles for which the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation is honoring her — interfaith activist and business owner able to seamlessly blend the two to provide a platform for Muslim women to present their voices within the Muslim community, or ummah, and to the broader world.

“When I first met Tayyibah, she illustrated the word ‘celebrate,’” said Nina Soerakoesoemah, a longtime friend of Taylor’s. “She felt that we Muslim women are so full of talent, of skills, of life that we have to celebrate who we are, and that meant everything from our accomplishments to our struggles. She encouraged people to be who they are and to tell their stories.”

Taylor founded Azizah Magazine , written by and for Muslim women, and its publishing company, WOW Publishing, in Atlanta in 1999. The magazine took off, capturing a New America Media Award and three FOLIO Eddie  awards. It continues today under the publishing guidance of Soerakoesoemah, who first met Taylor when they were both young Muslim mothers in Seattle.

“When my mother died, one thing that really struck me is that everybody said a couple of things about her,” said Miriam  Abdul-Aziz, one of Taylor’s daughters and now a member of Azizah’s executive board.  “People said she had a sense of radiance and joy and regalness. And they said she was very nonjudgmental and accepted people exactly the way they were, Muslim and non-Muslim. Some Christians told me that because of knowing Tayyibah they actually became better Christians . She just had this way of knowing, no matter who you were, you were on a journey back to God.”

That attitude was vital to Taylor’s interfaith work. Born into a Christian family in Trinidad, she converted to Islam at 19. She seemed to grasp the need for interreligious understanding not just between nations and people, but between individuals involved in personal and business relationships as well. She served on the board of directors of Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters, the board of trustees for the Georgia Council for International Visitors, Faith Alliance of Metro Atlanta, Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality , and volunteered with the Interfaith Community Initiative . Her interfaith work took her to Turkey, Spain, Morocco, Jerusalem, Greece and Jordan, traveling with Jews, Christians, Muslims and others. In 2010, she was one of eight Muslims who met with the Dalai Lama as part of an Islam-Buddhism Common Ground event, and she attended the White House iftar — the breaking of the Ramadan fast — in 2011. If there was an “influential Muslim” list, she was on it, including The Huffington Post’s “Ten American Muslim Women You Should Know.”

When Taylor died in 2014 at age 62, many beyond Azizah Magazine mourned. Writing of her passing in The Islamic Monthly magazine, writer Jamillah Karim said Taylor “leaves a spiritual, intellectual, and cultural legacy that calls us to excellence. … She honored the divine purpose in the aspirations of others as much as she honored it in her own creation, Azizah Magazine.”


Summary of Case

In western society, Muslim women are often largely misunderstood. They have been viewed as an oppressed “non-entity” or an exotic “other,” with little understanding of their real situation. Even among their own communities, Muslim women are not often given a public voice or recognition for their business acumen and talent.

Tayyibah Taylor (1952-2014), founder and CEO of Wow Publishing, Inc. (Aziza Magazine), was a Muslim business entrepreneur who, through her magazine and advocacy efforts, helped people of all faiths to broaden their perceptions of the lives and accomplishments of Muslim women.

She was a tireless voice for Muslim women everywhere, visiting six continents as an advocate for peace and constructive interfaith relations.


Interview with Mariam Abdul-Aziz

The following interview of the late Tayyibah Taylor’s daughter (Mariam Abdul-Aziz) by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation was done during the inaugural Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards, which were held in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday, Sept. 6, a day before the Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Paralympic Games.

The awards recognize business leaders – current or past CEOs – who have demonstrated leadership in championing interfaith understanding and peace. The Awards are a partnership initiative of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation (RFBF), and the United Nations Global Compact Business for Peace (B4P) platform, with collaboration from the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations. The next awards will be given in Seoul, Korea, ahead of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Paralympics.

Note: Interview begins at 0:21 marker.


INTRODUCTION TO THE UNITED STATES

Demographics and Economy*

A 2015 estimate puts the U.S. population at 321,368,864. Of this, nearly 80% of the population is white, approximately 13% are African American, the Asian population is at 4%, and Amerindian and Alaskan natives represent close to 1%.

The US has the most technologically powerful economy in the world, with a per capita GDP of $54,800. US firms are at or near the forefront in technological advances, especially in computers, pharmaceuticals, and medical, aerospace, and military equipment; however, their advantage has narrowed since the end of World War II. Based on a comparison of GDP measured at Purchasing Power Parity conversion rates, the US economy in 2014, having stood as the largest in the world for more than a century, slipped into second place behind China, which has more than tripled the US growth rate for each year of the past four decades.

In the US, private individuals and business firms make most of the decisions, and the federal and state governments buy needed goods and services predominantly in the private marketplace. US business firms enjoy greater flexibility than their counterparts in Western Europe and Japan in decisions to expand capital plant, to lay off surplus workers, and to develop new products. At the same time, businesses face higher barriers to enter their rivals’ home markets than foreign firms face entering US markets.

Long-term problems for the US include stagnation of wages for lower-income families, inadequate investment in deteriorating infrastructure, rapidly rising medical and pension costs of an aging population, energy shortages, and sizable current account and budget deficits.

The onrush of technology has been a driving factor in the gradual development of a “two-tier” labor market in which those at the bottom lack the education and the professional/technical skills of those at the top and, more and more, fail to get comparable pay raises, health insurance coverage, and other benefits. But the globalization of trade, and especially the rise of low-wage producers such as China, has put additional downward pressure on wages and upward pressure on the return to capital. Since 1975, practically all the gains in household income have gone to the top 20% of households. Since 1996, dividends and capital gains have grown faster than wages or any other category of after-tax income.

Imported oil accounts for nearly 55% of US consumption and oil has a major impact on the overall health of the economy. Crude oil prices doubled between 2001 and 2006, the year home prices peaked; higher gasoline prices ate into consumers’ budgets and many individuals fell behind in their mortgage payments. Oil prices climbed another 50% between 2006 and 2008, and bank foreclosures more than doubled in the same period. Besides dampening the housing market, soaring oil prices caused a drop in the value of the dollar and a deterioration in the US merchandise trade deficit, which peaked at $840 billion in 2008. Because the US economy is energy-intensive, falling oil prices since 2013 have alleviated many of the problems the earlier increases had created.

In March 2010, President OBAMA signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a health insurance reform that was designed to extend coverage to an additional 32 million Americans by 2016, through private health insurance for the general population and Medicaid for the impoverished. Total spending on healthcare – public plus private – rose from 9.0% of GDP in 1980 to 17.9% in 2010.

Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan required major shifts in national resources from civilian to military purposes and contributed to the growth of the budget deficit and public debt. Through 2014, the direct costs of the wars totaled more than $1.5 trillion, according to US Government figures.

* CIA Factbook

Religious Demographics

As shown in the Pew Research chart below, 78.3% of the U.S. population identify as Christian, while 16.4% identify as unaffiliated. Jews represent 1.8% of the population and Buddhists represent 1.2%. Muslims, Hindus and folk religions each respectively represent less than 1% of the population.

 

In 2010, according to Pew Research, out of a population of 310,380,000, Christians had 243,060,000 adherents, with an expected growth to 258,410,00 in 2030. Unaffiliated U.S. citizens had 50,980,000 numbers in 2010, and are expected to expand to 75,740,000 in 2030. The median age for all religions is 37, with the Jewish population representing the oldest at 41, and Muslims representing the youngest at 24. The Muslim U.S. population has the highest fertility rate at 2.8, followed by Christians at 2.1, with the unaffiliated fertility rate at 1.6.

Conflict and Violence Related to Religion

The global war on terrorism and the backlash in the United States against religious minorities, including calls during the 2016 presidential election to limit Muslim immigration, add to social tensions involving religion.

In the 2015 FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, the nation’s law enforcement agencies reported that there were 7,173 victims of hate crimes. Of these victims, 1,402 were victims of anti-religious hate crimes:

  • – 52.1 percent were victims of crimes motivated by their offenders’ anti-Jewish bias.
  • – 21.9 percent were victims of anti-Islamic (Muslim) bias.
  • – 4.3 percent were victims of anti-Catholic bias.
  • – 4.1 percent were victims of bias against groups of individuals of varying religions (anti-multiple religions, group).
  • – 3.6 percent were victims of anti-Eastern Orthodox (Russian, Greek, Other) bias.
  • – 3.4 percent were victims of anti-Protestant bias.
  • – 1.3 percent were victims of anti-Other Christian bias.
  • – 0.6 percent were victims of anti-Mormon bias.
  • – 0.4 percent were victims of anti-Hindu bias.
  • – 0.4 percent were victims of anti-Sikh bias.
  • – 0.1 percent were victims of anti-Jehovah’s Witness bias.
  • – 0.1 percent were victims of anti-Buddhist bias.
  • – 0.1 percent were victims of anti-Atheist/Agnostic bias.
  • -7.6 percent were victims of bias against other religions (anti-other religion).

As shown in the Pew Research chart below, the global median score for social hostilities involving religion is 2.4 on a 10-point scale, where 10 is high. The United States’ rating is 3.1, meaning it has moderate social hostilities involving religion. The global median score for governmental restrictions on religious freedom is 3.1. The U.S. has low moderate restrictions on religious freedom with a score of 3.0.[5]


More About Tayyibah Taylor

Ms. Tayyibah Taylor (1952 – 2014) was a Muslim business entrepreneur who helped Muslim women as well as many women and men of other faiths better understand the life and accomplishments of Muslim women. She was a tireless advocate for Muslim women, a mentor and role model to countless Muslims in America and abroad. A learned and spiritual woman, she was a firm believer in Allah’s mercy, she was a pioneer woman who spoke and wrote about Islam and spirituality, often when the only prominent voices in the American Muslim community were of men. Among the most well traveled Muslim women of the world, Ms. Taylor logged millions of miles in visits to countries on six continents, advocating for peace, constructive interfaith relations, and Muslim women’s empowerment. The most notable part of her life’s work is founding the institution of Azizah Magazine.

Tayyibah Taylor launched Azizah Magazine in 2000, along with co-founder, Nina Soerakoesoemah. Azizah magazine is a quarterly lifestyle magazine celebrating the stories and accomplishments of Muslim women. In addition to providing engaging articles, Azizah is the magazine American Muslim women and their families read to learn about new trends, useful products and quality merchandise. As the only print magazine of its kind, targeted to women of this global market, and soon to be digital publication, Azizah is steadily growing in its reach and popularity. The magazine’s reach not only spans to Muslim women, but also many women and men of other faiths who are able to get better understanding into the world of the life and accomplishments of Muslim women.

Tayyibah Taylor was the founding editor-in-chief and publisher of Azizah Magazine, an award-winning publication. Ms. Taylor was named as one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Middle Eastern think tank The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies and was featured in Huffington Post as one of the Ten American Muslim Women You Should Know. Through Azizah, Ms. Taylor realized her vision to provide a vehicle for the voice of Muslim American women – a vehicle that portrays their perspectives and experiences, and shatters commonly held stereotypes. She presented lectures on Islam and Muslim women at national and international conferences and has travelled to 40 countries, spanning six continents, some of which was sponsored by the US State Department. Ms. Taylor worked on several interfaith initiatives and traveled to Turkey, Spain, Morocco, Jerusalem, Greece, Jordan and Canada with various groups of Jews, Christians and Muslims.

She served on the board of directors of Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters and on the board of trustees for the Georgia Council for International Visitors. She was also active in Faith Alliance of Metro Atlanta and the Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality and volunteered with the Interfaith Community Initiative.

Discussion Questions

  1. 1. What other niche markets in addition to publishing offer ways to create a business model that are sustainable and can at the same time advance interfaith understanding, religious freedom and peace.
  2. 2. In what ways was Tayyibah Taylor a leader with a vision? Identify other business leaders who are a powerful company and issue spokespersons.
  3. 3. Aside from Muslim women, what other groups of religious women face multiple forms of discrimination? Identify other stereotype-breaking initiatives like Azizah Magazine that are a powerful ways to counter such prejudices.
  4. 4. Identify other successful initiatives to advance interfaith understanding, religious freedom and peace that involve breaking stereotypes. Do these also present business opportunities?

Media and Added Resources


This case study was prepared by Melissa Grim, J.D., M.T.S., a senior research fellow with the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, and Brian Grim, Ph.D., president of the foundation. It is made possible by a generous grant from the Templeton Religion Trust.