Business & Controversial Social Values

It’s a good thing when businesses are guided by social values, right? Well, that kinda depends on whether you endorse the particular social values in question.

See this recent short article about a Turkish company, Hasema, selling bathing suits that comply with conservative Islamic values:

Turk takes Islam-inspired swimwear to pious bathers

An unusual type of swimwear is standing out on Turkish beaches this summer — Islam-inspired swimsuits — which buck the trend of the past 100 years for swimsuits to get smaller.

Turkish businessman Mehmet Sahin has designed what he says is the world’s first Islam-inspired swimsuit and sells head-to-ankle bathing gear to devout well-heeled Muslims, including the wives of Turkey’s leading politicians.

The company offers full-length swimwear for men, women, & kids. But the products for women are the ones most likely to raise eyebrows. For many non-Islamic Westerners, the conservative dress code for Islamic women seems repressive. Now, while Turkey is a secular republic, the vast majority of its citizens are Muslim. According to the article, in Turkey “most women wear headscarves” but wearing them is banned “in public buildings such as at universities and parliament.”

This seems like an under-explored issue in business ethics & corporate social responsibility. To whose social values ought companies be responsive?

Links:
Hasema‘s website.
An Islamic Perspective on Women’s Dress

I’ve blogged on the general issue of companies catering to particular social values:
Wal-Mart & Brokeback
Wal-Mart & the Morning After Pill

Relevant Books:
Islam: Religion, History, and Civilization
No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam
Sunkissed: Swimwear and the Hollywood Beauty

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