Computer ethics for the computer professional from an Islamic point of view

Pages28-45
Publication Date04 April 2008
DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/14779960810866783
AuthorMansoor Al‐A'ali
SubjectInformation & knowledge management
Computer ethics for the computer
professional from an Islamic
point of view
Mansoor Al-A’ali
Department of Computer Science, College of Information Technology,
University of Bahrain, Kingdom of Bahrain
Abstract
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to study the ethical behaviour of Muslim IT professionals in
an attempt to stop many unethical practices such as software piracy, software intellectual property
violations and general software development.
Design/methodology/approach This study examines the computer ethical principles presented in
the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) code of conduct from an Islamic point of view through
studying some relevant verses of The Holy Quran and Hadiths of Prophet Mohammed. An evaluation of
the benefits of this newly proposed Islamic computer code of ethics is presented by surveying how IT
students, IT professionals and software house owners would adhere to it. The evaluation was carried out
by teaching different groups of participants aspects of the ACM code of conduct and the proposed
Islamic computer ethics code and then surveying their opinions by a questionnaire.
Findings – The study demonstrates that teaching computer ethics in general, and computer ethics
from an Islamic point of view in particular, clearly contributes to ethical behaviour of Muslim IT
professionals with regards to software development issues.
Research limitations/implications – It is not possible to put participants through real life
scenarios and practically observe how they would react to different ethical situations. The empirical
research thus relies on what participants said they would do.
Practical implications – The newly developed Islamic code of computer ethics and its proposed
implementation method can be utilised by organisations for their benefit.
Originality/value – The study is the first to address the issue of computer ethics and Islam for IT
professionals. This paper presents a first Islamic computer code of ethics and presents a methodology
for applying it. It also reports a study undertaken in Bahrain of how attitudes might be influenced by
teaching computer ethics in general, and computer ethics from an Islamic point of view in particular.
Keywords Ethics, Islam, Computers, Business ethics
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
Islam is supposed to be a complete way of life. A Muslim is bound by Islamic rules and
hence is obliged to follow the instructions as prescribed in the Quran and Hadiths.
Islam is a religion based upon the surrender to God (Allah). The very name of the
religion, al-Islam in Arabic, means submission and peace, for it is in submitting to
God’s will that human beings gain peace in their lives in this world and in the hereafter.
Islam is considered to be a comprehensive religion and its ethical system is
considered to be one of the major ethical systems. Owing to the importance of
establishing an ethical system in the field of IT, especially at our present time which is
witnessing an ever increasing ethical problems, several specialist organizations have
prepared codes of ethics to be complied with by members of those organizations. This is
what the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the Institute of Electrical
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
www.emeraldinsight.com/1477-996X.htm
JICES
6,1
28
Journal of Information,
Communication & Ethics in Society
Vol. 6 No. 1, 2008
pp. 28-45
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
1477-996X
DOI 10.1108/14779960810866783
and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) have done in accordance with the rules, sy stems and
opinions of experts of those organizations.
In the last two decades, information technology has been reshaping how the world
communicates. Evidence of the eagerness on the part of some Muslims to embrace such
technology includes the proliferation of Islamic sites on the internet, some of which are
devoted to Islamic education and propagation, while others are more of a commercial
or entertainment nature.
It is good to note that the issue of ethics in relation to technology was not totally
disregarded by Islamic countries. The Islamic Body on Ethics of Science and
Technology was created by virtue of the Recommendations of the First Islamic
Conference of Ministers of Higher Education and Scientific and Research which was
held in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 15-18 October 2000, which aimed for the
establishment of the Islamic Body on Ethics of Science and Technology; and also the
recommendations of the meeting of the experts’ committee for the preparation of a
document on the establishment of the Islamic Body on Ethics of Science and
Technology (Rabat, Kingdom of Morocco, 14-15 July 2003). The Islamic Body on Ethics
of Science and Technology identified six objectives. The two objectives of concern to us
here could be:
(1) Directing Muslim public opinion to the ethical aspects of some very important
and crucial issues from the perspective of the Islamic Sharia.
(2) Urging educational institutions to introduce ethics in their teaching curricula, as
part and parcel of the educational and training programmes of basic and higher
education, with a view to enabling young scientists to further scientific
research, while observing ethical norms and principles.
However, we could not trace any studies conducted in the direction of the relationship
between information technology and ethics in Islamic countries.
Computer ethics has emerged as one of the major issues in information technology.
Ethics encourage individuals to think through their attitudes and beliefs and thus be
able to decide in advance whether their opinions are appropriate or not, and once this is
decided, individuals should then be prepared to accept full responsibility for their
actions (Langford, 1995). Computer ethics can be defined as a category of professional
ethics similar to medical, legal, teaching and accounting ethics (Baase, 2003).
Computer ethics is a complex field to address because it is not based on solid rules
which can be monitored. Instead it is an individual’s behaviour which on the whole can
be either secretive or undisclosed and cannot be measured. Computer ethics is based on
facts, conceptualisations, policies and values related to constantly changing computer
technology and people’s attitudes. As Adam (2001) puts it, the spectrum covered by
computer ethics studies can be characterized as:
.central core of academic computer ethics research and academic philosophy; and
.more popular, less philosophically inclined material.
In recent years,many studies have investigatedthe responsibility and ethical codesof IT
users amidstthe evolving nature of IT applications(Phukan and Dhillon, 2000). Forwhat
to do and what not to do in computer ethics, one should read volumes of philosophical
literature and relate it to everyday activities. A good way to put it is “computer ethics
is not a fixed set of rules which one shellacs and hangs on the wall” (Moor, 1985).
Computer ethics
for the computer
professional
29

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