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Tehran hosts biggest Qur'anic event in Islamic World

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 02 June 2013 | Posted in , ,

Tehran has hosted the 30th International Qur’an Competitions in recitation and memorization categories. The event has brought together over 110 reciters and memorizers from 75 world countries.

At the contest the competitors will demonstrate their talents in reciting and memorizing the Holy Book with great passion and dedication.

Since its first inauguration in 1983 the competition gradually opened its place among Muslim scholars serving as a platform for introducing new faces to the Muslim world in the field of recitation and memorizing the holy Qur'an. A number of Iranian and international reciters have been selected to serve at the jury panel of the 2013 Tehran International Qur’an Competition.

On the sidelines of the international contest a seminar on Qur’anic research is also scheduled to be held.

The 30th International Qur’an Competitions will continue until June 7, 2013.
At the 29th competitions last year Iran, Egypt and Bahrain were announced as the winners of the recitation category, while the prize for best memorizers of the holy Quran went to competitors from Iran, Bangladesh and Libya.

(Courtesy: Press TV)

Is the Islamic finance industry ready for social media?

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , , , , ,

By Rushdi Siddiqui

Social marketing eliminates the middlemen, providing brands the unique opportunity to have a direct relationship with their customers. — Bryan Weiner.

Today, it seems Islamic finance is still stuck at a hard-copy of stage communication (faxes) when the financial world has moved on to Facebook, Twitter, blogging, etc.

Many Islamic financial institutions have Web sites, but how often is it updated beyond awards won? How many Islamic banks, takaful operators, Shariah consulting firms, industry bodies, etc, are on Facebook? Yet, the youth — its future clients — in many Muslim countries with Islamic finance are on Facebook.

What about the cross-sell of Islamic finance to non-Muslims as an ethical alternative? These potential customers are an important cluster of social media and they are continuously looking for offerings aligned with their values.

Several Islamic financial institutions have Twitter accounts, unsure how many of their (retail) clients are on Twitter. Do these institutions believe SMS, Internet and mobile banking is the “social media” connection to their clients?

Maybe the culture of social media is lacking in, say, the GCC. But we saw how effectively social media was utilised during the Arab Spring.

Fear

Is there a fear of technology among Islamic financial institutions? The fear of hackers stealing from customer accounts and identity theft? They have heard about horror stories on hacking from US- and EU-based banks with allegedly better (read, more expensive) firewalls.

Is there fear that social media connectivity will raise the level of transparency to conventional benchmarks standards and with accountability to follow? Put differently, will social media result in enhanced governance? It is not a bad thing in this post-credit crisis environment where companies are rewarded via a stable stock price and rave reviews for transparency and governance.

Is there fear that “bad news” concerning Islamic financial institutions will spread like wildfire if (deeply) connected to social media? It will spread anyway as news organisation coverage is supplemented by bloggers and tweeters in real time.

Resources

Is it a lack of resource issue in having, say, a “chief social media officer”? It would appear that Islamic financial institutions have not looked at public relations and outreach as an investment in their brand, but, rather, a cost of doing business.

Brand-building goes towards commitment to not only clients and staff, but long-term growth of the institution, including eventual cross-border expansion and future clients. Furthermore, during challenging market cycles, the message to the community, whose attention has become shorter, is the confidence inspiring “business as usual”.

Guidance

The Thomson Reuters Islamic Finance Gateway, or IFG, may just provide a guidance for Islamic financial institutions on understanding about the benefits of social media connectivity. It comes down to market intelligence, and the market place is the best source of “knowledge that powers” market movements. The community connectivity function of the IFG comes down to insights by industry experts making sense of the information overload, communicating about important sign posts on the road ahead and allowing community to interface with experts on a secure platform.

LinkedIn, Twitter

At the behest of colleagues, I joined LinkedIn about a year ago to connect with like-minded colleagues globally to share ideas and articles. Outside of unsolicited endorsement of people I have connected with, but, not worked with, it has been a pleasant experience, especially reading leadership articles.

Furthermore, I started tweeting a few months ago, initially on Islamic finance and the halal industry, but have expanded to issues related to Muslims, Islam, Muslim countries, etc. It has been a fulfilling experience and I should have joined much earlier. Why?

1. Tweeting forces one to convey their message in 140 characters, becomes very important in today’s world of short-attention span and information overload. Islamic financial institutions should be able to convey thought leadership within these constraints.

2. Twitter brings news in real time from multiple eyes, hence, it’s a multiple “op-ed” of the market place on the subject matter. The raw news provides more colour than polished sound-bites.

3. Twitter has allowed me to follow the likes of global leaders like His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and his comments in real time. He first tweeted about Dubai being a hub for an Islamic economy a few months ago.

Conclusion

Shaikh Mohammed’s tweets, at the time of writing this, on the performance of UAE government standards should encourage Islamic financial institutions to engage and embrace the social media to not only connect, but also to report developments.

[Rushdi Siddiqui is Co-Founder and Managing Director of Azka Capital, a private equity advisory firm focused on halal industry initiatives, and an Advisor to Thomson Reuters on Islamic finance and the halal industry.]

(Courtesy: Khaleej Times)

Islamic Banks Flourish in Secular Turkey

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , , ,

No Interest Charged in Compliance with Islamic Law

By Steve Dorsey

Istanbul: Once a negligible sliver of the banking industry, Islamic financial institutions which keep within Islamic Sharia law, are now gaining support in Turkey, a secular republic since its founding in 1923.

This month the Turkish government – controlled by the conservative Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) – issued banking licenses to two new Islamic banks.

The licensing is a move to expand so-called "participation banks" that use Sharia-compliant financial methods, like not charging interest. Islamic banks also avoid investments in products that are not halal (permissible according to Sharia law), or involve alcohol or gambling.

The new banks will join four Islamic banks that comprised more than 5% of the Turkish banking sector. That is leaps and bounds from where the Islamic banks' piece of the Turkish banking sector was when it emerged in the 1980s.struggling for attention. "It always had a small share," Atilla Yesilada, an Istanbul-based consultant with Global Source Partners, an economic and political consultancy firm.

The original creation of the Islamic banks in the 1980s was part of an effort to liberalize the country's economy. Turkish clients initially viewed the banks with skepticism as being linked to the Arab world. The government was also far from supportive of the banks, according to Yesilada.

Changes in Turkey's economy and politics since 2002 when AKP took power, however, have helped the sector to grow.

After the 2001 Turkish economic crisis, sweeping banking reforms were passed to give the state more control of the private banking sector. The resulting regulations helped open access and credit to Islamic banks, Yesilada said. They offered an alternative to conventional banks. Certain investments in participation banks also became insurable under Turkish law.

Economic analysts viewed the changes as a defining moment for Islamic banks.

Following the reforms and economic collapse of 2001, Islamic banks' assets in Turkey increased five times over, Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan said in a speech last September at a financial conference in Malaysia. The growth in market shares follows a 2005 law that helped open the doors to the expansion of participation banks.

Regardless, Yesilada sees the role of the new banks as purely financial. "This is not an ideology matter, this is a business matter," he said. "As long as money comes in, no one questions if there are any political motivations."

Indeed, deposits and investments in the Islamic banking institutions continue, so much so that Islamic banks are expected to nearly double their share of the sector in Turkey by 2018, according to a May 2013 report from Kuwait-based Islamic investment research firm KHF Research.

The banks have also become popular with those uncomfortable with traditional ones.

"For the Muslims, it is a system in line with their faith, so they feel comfortable engaging in business transactions that do not include speculation and other types of services that the Qur'an…and Sunnah which includes the sayings and practices of the prophet Muhammad, have clearly prohibited," Muhammad Jameel Yusha'u, from the Saudi Arabia-based Islamic Development Bank of which Turkey is a member, told The Media Line.

The banks may also prove attractive to others as well. "For non-Muslims who partake in Islamic banking it fits in with ethical ways of conducting businesses…let alone those who fear running out of business or at worst losing their business and remain indebted by having to still pay the interest incurred," Yusha'u said.

The worldwide economic meltdown in 2008, which led to significant international banking and economic reform worldwide, also brought more depositors to the perceived security and integrity of Islamic banks, according to Yusha'u,

In one 18-month period ending in March 2012 Islamic banks in the Gulf region of the Middle East grew at double the rate of conventional banks, according to a report by "The Financial Times."

Meanwhile, Turkish regulatory and economic officials have begun to steer state investments away from the West.

The European Union remains Turkey's largest trading partner, but government officials have grown increasingly interested in diversifying to emerging markets throughout the Middle East and Africa. That is in line with the lure of Islamic banks as Turkey looks to the East, Yesilada said.

That means that what initially put off Turks when Islamic banks emerged in Turkey – interest in the Arab world - may be what is now boosting their popularity.

(Courtesy: The Media Line)

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