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American/Lds Cultural Assumptions


KevinG

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I have been approached about a job in Saudi that would bring me in contact with a lot of Saudi executives. What assumptions do I need to be aware of as an American and LDS convert that I should know about.

The obvious stuff is religious beliefs and social norms that stem from them. But I want some deeper insights.

American and LDS perspectives are founded in a Judeo-Christian and secular basis. How does the Saudi/Islamic foundation differ in fundamental ways. What higher asperations appeal similarly (family, tradition, patriotism) and what differs?

Yes, Dr. Peterson I'm asking for your B-list academic wisdom. Same for the rest of you who have been expats or served Islamic or Arab bosses.

Thanks in advance!

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I think... I have a friend of mine who worked and lived there and he is LDS, if he is at church on sunday I will ask him! I know he is my friend I know I am going on sunday and I hope he is going on sunday but what I am not sure about is where he worked in the Middle East, but I think it was Saudi Arabia

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I have been approached about a job in Saudi that would bring me in contact with a lot of Saudi executives. What assumptions do I need to be aware of as an American and LDS convert that I should know about.

The obvious stuff is religious beliefs and social norms that stem from them. But I want some deeper insights.

American and LDS perspectives are founded in a Judeo-Christian and secular basis. How does the Saudi/Islamic foundation differ in fundamental ways. What higher asperations appeal similarly (family, tradition, patriotism) and what differs?

Yes, Dr. Peterson I'm asking for your B-list academic wisdom. Same for the rest of you who have been expats or served Islamic or Arab bosses.

Thanks in advance!

You might want to e-mail The Great Zehr Geehrter Herr Professor Doktor directly, so as to expedite a response to your inquiry. Notwithstanding his recent contribution, I'm unsure how much time he's been able to spend here of late. (Good luck in your job-search endeavors! :))

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I am not the authority that the good doctor is but I did take a year long, all expenses paid, middle-east "vacation" courtesy of Uncle Sam back in the mid 80s. With the understanding that my information might be somewhat dated, I offer you the following:

As a Latter-day Saint I examined the religious principles of Islam, and found that we LDS hold views which are far apart from the Islamic tradition. For example they deny the need for modern prophets.

“Prepare ye, prepare ye for that which is to come, for the Lord is nigh; And the anger of the Lord is kindled, and his sword is bathed in heaven, and it shall fall upon the inhabitants of the earth. And the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people” (Doctrine & Covenants 1:12-14)

“Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the Seal of the prophets. And Allah is ever Knower of all things.” (Sura 33:40 – Maulana Muhammad Ali, translator, “The Holy Qur’an”, Columbus, Ohio: Ahmadiyyah Anjuman Isha’at Islam, Lahore, Inc., [1998], pg. 812)

The phrase "Seal of the prophets" means the last of the prophets. Obviously that is something which as Latter-day Saints, we cannot agree with the Muslims. Even more emphatically, Latter-day Saints disapprove of the Islamic doctrine rejecting the divinity of Jesus Christ.

“Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I am the life and the light of the world. I am the same who came unto mine own and mine own received me not; But verily, verily, I say unto you, that as many as receive me, to them will I give power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on my name. Amen.” (Doctrine & Covenants 11:28-30)

“And the Jews say: Ezra is the son of Allah; and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah. These are the words of their mouths. They imitate the sayings of those who disbelieved before. Allah’s curse be on them! How they are turned away!” (Sura 9:30 – Maulana Muhammad Ali, translator, “The Holy Qur’an”, Columbus, Ohio: Ahmadiyyah Anjuman Isha’at Islam, Lahore, Inc., [1998], pg. 391)

Interestingly enough, they do believe that Jesus is a great prophet and that he will return.

Don't let the differences dissuade you. There are many parallels in the beliefs of the LDS and Muslims. These would be such beliefs as:

Prayer

“And now, my brethren, I wish from the inmost part of my heart, yea, with great anxiety even unto pain, that ye would hearken unto my words, and cast off your sins, and not procrastinate the day of your repentance; But that ye would humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit, becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering; Having faith on the Lord; having a hope that ye shall receive eternal life; having the love of God always in your hearts, that ye may be lifted up at the last day and enter into his rest.” (Alma 13:27-29)

“And I have chosen thee, so listen to what is revealed: Surely I am Allah, there is no God but I, so serve Me, and keep up prayer for My remembrance.” (Sura 20:13-14 – Maulana Muhammad Ali, translator, “The Holy Qur’an”, Columbus, Ohio: Ahmadiyyah Anjuman Isha’at Islam, Lahore, Inc., [1998], pg. 611)

Faith

“And we know that all men must repent and believe on the name of Jesus Christ, and worship the Father in his name, and endure in faith on his name to the end, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God.” (Doctrine & Covenants 20:29)

“Allah is the Friend of those who believe – He brings them out of darkness into light …” (Sura 2:257 – Maulana Muhammad Ali, translator, “The Holy Qur’an”, Columbus, Ohio: Ahmadiyyah Anjuman Isha’at Islam, Lahore, Inc., [1998], pg. 111)

Repentance

“Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing—unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God; yea, unto such it shall be given to reveal things which never have been revealed; yea, and it shall be given unto such to bring thousands of souls to repentance, even as it has been given unto us to bring these our brethren to repentance.” (Alma 26:22)

“O you who believe, turn to Allah with sincere repentance. It may be your Lord will remove from you your evil and cause you to enter Gardens wherein flow rivers, on the day on which Allah will not abase the prophet and those who believe with him. Their light will gleam before them and on their right hands – they will say: Our Lord, make perfect for us our light, and grant us protection; surely Thou art Possessor of power over all things.” (Sura 66:8 – Maulana Muhammad Ali, translator, “The Holy Qur’an”, Columbus, Ohio: Ahmadiyyah Anjuman Isha’at Islam, Lahore, Inc., [1998], pg. 1076-1077)

Fasting

“And for this cause I gave unto you a commandment that you should call your solemn assembly, that your fastings and your mourning might come up into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, which is by interpretation, the creator of the first day, the beginning and the end.” (Doctrine & Covenants 95:7)

“O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard against evil.” (Sura 2:183 – Maulana Muhammad Ali, translator, “The Holy Qur’an”, Columbus, Ohio: Ahmadiyyah Anjuman Isha’at Islam, Lahore, Inc., [1998], pg. 75)

Caring for those less fortunate

“And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.” (Mosiah 4:26)

“(Zakat) charity is only for the poor and the needy, and those employed to administer it, and those whose hearts are made to incline (to truth), and (to free) the captives, and those in debt, and in the way of Allah and for the wayfarer – an ordinance from Allah. And Allah is Knowing, Wise.” (Sura 9:60 – Maulana Muhammad Ali, translator, “The Holy Qur’an”, Columbus, Ohio: Ahmadiyyah Anjuman Isha’at Islam, Lahore, Inc., [1998], pg. 399)

This is a big, big deal for both faiths. So much so in fact that the two faiths team up in partnership to provide aid to disaster areas. The synergy of our two faiths working together are a marvel.

Abstention from alcoholic beverages

“That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him.” (Doctrine & Covenants 89:5)

“O you who believe, intoxicants and games of chance and (sacrificing to) stones set up and (dividing by) arrows are only an uncleanness, the devil’s work; so shun it that you may succeed.” (Sura 5:90 – Maulana Muhammad Ali, translator, “The Holy Qur’an”, Columbus, Ohio: Ahmadiyyah Anjuman Isha’at Islam, Lahore, Inc., [1998], pg. 268)

Building strong families

“And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.” (Doctrine & Covenants 68:25)

“And Allah has made wives for you from among yourselves, and has given you sons and daughters from your wives, and has provided you with good things. Will they then believe in falsehood and deny the favour of Allah?” (Sura 16:72 – Maulana Muhammad Ali, translator, “The Holy Qur’an”, Columbus, Ohio: Ahmadiyyah Anjuman Isha’at Islam, Lahore, Inc., [1998], pg. 531)

Sexual modesty

“We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” (Articles of Faith:13)

“Say to the believing men that they lower their gaze and restrain their sexual passions. That is purer for them. Surely Allah is Aware of what they do. And say to the believing women that they lower their gaze and restrain their sexual passions and do not display their adornment …” (Sura 24:30-31 – Maulana Muhammad Ali, translator, “The Holy Qur’an”, Columbus, Ohio: Ahmadiyyah Anjuman Isha’at Islam, Lahore, Inc., [1998], pg. 684-685)

I can tell you from personal experience that they are a proud but friendly, kind and hospitable people. The normal body-space is much abreviated in the middle east. Not only do they feel comfortable up close and personal, but they may wish to hold your hand or grasp your arm. Relax and deal with it. Keep the soles of your feet firmly on the ground. Do not cross your legs. To show the bottom of your feet is a social faux pas. Use your right hand for everything outside the bathroom. Left hands are for considered unclean because they are used only for the body's private functions.

Their cities are safer than our own. Be careful, though. Once you are there, you no longer have the rights you think you have. The State Department has guides. Memorize them. Follow them to the T.

Learn to wear sunglasses. It is unbelievable how bright the sun is over there. Eye damage from the glare off the sand and see is common. The sand over there is very old and very fine grit. It gets into everything. Use lip balm, eye drops and sun screen as needed. Drink at least two or three litres of water every day. Look at how the locals dress. Wear a hat and keep your body covered. There is a very good reason for it. Worship on Friday which is is the Sabbath over there. Always check the voltage before you plug something in. Get a good, reliable transformer. Familiarise yourself with the metric system. That is what they use. See the sites; enjoy the local quisine; learn everything you can. Your trip will provide many fond memories in the future.

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I have been approached about a job in Saudi that would bring me in contact with a lot of Saudi executives. What assumptions do I need to be aware of as an American and LDS convert that I should know about.

The obvious stuff is religious beliefs and social norms that stem from them. But I want some deeper insights.

American and LDS perspectives are founded in a Judeo-Christian and secular basis. How does the Saudi/Islamic foundation differ in fundamental ways. What higher asperations appeal similarly (family, tradition, patriotism) and what differs?

Yes, Dr. Peterson I'm asking for your B-list academic wisdom. Same for the rest of you who have been expats or served Islamic or Arab bosses.

Thanks in advance!

My friend is a geologist and expert in falconry. He lived and worked in Dubai for many years and was an active member in the church and local leadership. The perspectives are different, but not as difficult as one may think. I remember a story he told. His branch was meeting in a building one Sunday, and there came a knock at the door. It was the equivalent of internal security. The man asked to speak to the brother a moment. He noted that no proselyting was going on (forbidden in Middle Easter Muslim countries) and gave my friend a card. He said "If anyone bothers or molests you or your members, you are to call this number and we will deal with it". In essence if you know their laws and abide by them, as I understand it, theirs becomes an obligation to protect you from harm, from anyone that would interfere or bother you based on your religious belief.

Relationships are best when they are personal, the personal relationship is very powerful in that part of the world. Because my friend knew of falconry, he was able to make some strong relationships during his many years there. I enjoy talking to him and discussing some of the ins and outs and find him a facinating man with great insight and a wonderful heart. Even if he is a democrat. ;)

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This may be dated, but many years ago there was a major incident with the government which basically arose from a directory of the branch membership. It was very serious. I suspect that it is still the case that the church leaders will tell you not to talk about the church at all.

Basically you need to realize that you do not have the religious rights that you enjoy here in the US, and the church wants to be invisible.

As I said, this may be dated, but in the area of religion, you must be very careful.

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You have all been very helpful. Now with those issues in mind (and I will continue to research them) I want to go deeper.

When I consult with Western leaders there are many values and cultural foundations that can be appealed to in a universal sense: honor, ambition, family, integrity, charity, wealth, security...

If I were forced to pick the top few that run as a current under American Culture, integrity, family, wealth and influence are common themes. The Judeo Christian tradition has love/charity as a basic underpinning. Western culture often expresses love as romantic attraction maturing as duty towards others.

What would those themes be for the typical Saudi/Islamic leader? I suspect they are similar but in what ways do they differ?

In short is there any difference between the expression of basic motivations between the cultures?

What motivates us at our core? How is it the same and how is it different.

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