Do you ever think that it’s a coincidence that innovation has been going through a golden era since globalization took off? Have you ever thought about the interconnection of diversity and success in powerful countries? When did companies start using their diversified culture as a marketing strategy? Mohammed Mamdouh joined us to talk about the power of differences and what he has been doing to become a positive element of the society. He is a very successful software engineer and has started his own consulting company in Slovakia, the director of the Arab-Slovak Chamber of Commerce and he is also involved in other business and NGO activities.
I’m not only an Arab but also African, Muslim and dark skinned. When I first meet someone, there are many labels I face. On top of that, my name is Mohammed, which can be considered as another label.Mohammed
Mohammed says that despite his different background, Slovakia has been quite generous with him and that living here as an Arab hasn’t been all that difficult. He thinks that being a well-educated professional has played a big role in this. He says Slovakia has a fair environment for everyone and it offers many opportunities, freedom and appreciation for hard work. It’s his 11th year here and he sees Slovakia as a second home.
I try to be a positive element of the society by contributing and working hard.Mohammed
He shares that there have been few bad experiences and that one could notice that the people who come to Slovakia from the Western countries are treated differently comparing to the rest. But Slovaks tend to find people who come from countries like Egypt more exotic and these people can easily become the center of attention. Especially if they are good at something or excel at a skill, adds Mohammed.
After the terrorist attack in Wien last year, Mohammed had offered to help people. He helped around 10-20 people by doing deliveries, some consultancy work and creating websites for few. When asked if he had done it to show that not every Muslim is an enemy he says that he wasn’t trying to show or prove anything. He saw the whole incident as a volcano about to erupt because people started to rebuild politically driven hatred toward Muslims. He wanted to try and help suppress those negative feelings and see humanity prevail. That was exactly what happened, he describes the whole atmosphere like a beautiful symphony played by everyone. Because soon enough everyone started to help each other regardless of their origins.
As a matter of fact, the results of the shooting in Wien can be described as a plot twist. It was because of the slowly establishing friendly, inclusive and accepting societies that helped suppress the possible disruptive outcomes of the terrorist attack.
As far as the attitude of Slovaks toward foreigners goes, Mohammed thinks that what they feel is not hatred or resentment but rather fear. But we mustn’t forget that not so long-ago Slovaks were living under a communist regime and their perception of Arabs and Muslims was influenced mainly by the media which wasn’t providing the full picture. However, Slovakia has come so far and has developed so much that today the situation is a lot better and the society is more inclusive.
One of the listeners comments that the media serves stereotypes to people and this affects the way people perceive foreigners and the immigrants in their countries. Mohammed says that the best way to avoid being deceived by the stereotypes is to meet new people, get in touch with foreigners and have open discussions with them. Having a more inclusive social life can help improve oneself in countless ways.
He also says that on the other hand, there was an incident where a Saudi family was attacked by a group in Slovakia. These types of incidents are very destructive for every country. It made Slovakia look like a not very Muslim-friendly country in the eyes of the Arab world. Nevertheless, Arabs have learnt to take negative comments more light-heartedly and move on.
When it comes to similarities between Slovaks and Arabs, Mohammed tells about the ties between Czechoslovakia and the Arab countries. Especially after 1955 Czechoslovakia was investing a lot and building factories in countries like Egypt, Libya, Yemen etc. There are even people who decided to stay there and vice versa. Some Arabs started to move to Czechoslovakia for education and work.
In short, globalization has done its duty in providing almost every society with something common with other societies. This is a great opportunity for everyone and something that can be used as a leverage when competing in the international markets. Diversity means different approaches and different solutions to every question. It expands our perspective which results in us being able to see the full picture and act upon it.
Written by: Özlem Sali