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Understanding and addressing Islamophobia in organizational settings: Leading with moral courage

Leslie E. Sekerka (Menlo College, Atherton, California, USA)
Marianne Marar Yacobian (Menlo College, Atherton, California, USA)

International Journal of Public Leadership

ISSN: 2056-4929

Article publication date: 23 October 2017

Issue publication date: 8 November 2017




The purpose of this paper is to call to public leaders to exercise moral courage in choosing to understand and address phobic biases and prejudicial attitudes toward Muslims in the workplace. With reference to developments in the USA, workplace discrimination is framed as an ethical issue, with Islamophobia viewed as a rapidly growing concern.


This work is a practical application of existing theory and research in positive organizational scholarship to address the concern of workplace discrimination; specifically Islamophobia. Propositions are developed to depict how public leaders can address Islamophobia and other forms of discrimination by role modeling moral courage.


The findings show that Islamophobia is an ethical challenge for public leaders, one that can begin to be addressed by exercising character strength that promotes tolerance, civility, and respect. This proactive approach will enable public leaders to serve as pillars of openness, inclusion, and thoughtful regard for others, regardless of organizational members’ faith or culture.

Social implications

The social implications are to encourage discourse among global public leaders, prompting awareness and concern for Islamophobia and promoting more informed paths for productive scholarship.


Studies of workplace discrimination typically focus on race and gender, with few considering how Muslims face increasing Islamophobia. This work adds value to the existing literature by explicitly encouraging public leaders to respond, rather than react, to discrimination with moral competency.



Sekerka, L.E. and Marar Yacobian, M. (2017), "Understanding and addressing Islamophobia in organizational settings: Leading with moral courage", International Journal of Public Leadership, Vol. 13 No. 3, pp. 134-150.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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