The misfortune for the Muslim in the Western world is the besmirching of the religion’s name due to the acts of a few misguided individuals. As the murders in Boston and London have demonstrated, acts of violence in the name of religion can have widespread implications for Western Muslims. Immediately following the “terrorist” attacks, the Muslim media went into hyper-drive, roundly condemning the brutal killings and declaring that these acts have no sanction in Islam. It is unfortunate that this process is repeated each time disturbed individuals execute their bloodlust. But such is the pattern that has developed since 9/11.
Too often, Muslims have to defend the image of Islam by condemning these acts; however, they are not offering an effective counter-narrative. Simply put, there are not enough Muslims who are contributing to the world that are driven by their religion. These brutal killers utilise the language of Islam chanting Allahu Akbar, and tie themselves to a global ummah. For the dispassionate observer, the linkage between Islam and violence is then made. It is a reality, however mistaken this may be.
Muslims need to provide an alternative picture. They need to show the connection between religious convictions and worldly success. They need to show their contributions to the world and make this important connection. People speak of the golden age of Islam in which the Islamic world produced a plurality of thinkers, but there is a definite linkage between their religion and their work.
Islamic finance, by being ostensibly Islamic, has brought to the world’s attention Shari’a and finance. The presence of Shari’a boards and Shari’a scholars in banks shows that the Shari’a is more than women rights and hadd punishments. Islamaphobes have attempted to link Islamic finance to financing terrorism, but time and time again the link has been debunked. It cannot be made. Therefore, the Islamic finance industry can act as a vanguard against far right viewpoints.
Moreover the industry is producing some excellent professionals, who are contributing to different aspects of society. ISFIRE is attempting to bring these individuals out, and the magazine has contained interviews with a diverse range of Muslims who are excelling in their respective field. This month, we interviewed Dr Amat Taap Manshor, CEO of Malaysia’s Finance Accreditation Agency. Dr Manshor has been involved in the design, development and delivery of education and professional training programmes from certificate to Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) levels. Mr Sulaiman Al Harithi, the cheerful group manager of Meethaq Islamic banking group in Oman, is the Personality for this month. These individuals are at the forefront of driving the industry forward, and contributing to the dissemination of Islamic financial ideas to a wider population.
Education is important to developing understanding. Naveed Iqbal speaks of boosting demand of Islamic banking in Pakistan by improving education and training schemes. The premise of these schemes should be to appreciate the value proposition of Islamic finance, and its ability to change society for the better. Dr Wafica Ghoul adds to this by discussing how Islamic finance can help in financial planning.
But Muslim nations need to be actively investing in this industry. Unfortunately, countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh have a lot of internal problems, which is stifling growth of the industry. In the last three months, western newspapers have been replete with examples of social and economic problems in these respective countries. It would be nice to hear more positive news. Oman is an example of a Muslim nation that is positively contributing to society. This quiet sultanate has been gradually building its own economy and trading beneficially with other countries. The inception of Islamic finance in the country is the next step. I was fortunate to have helped organise the Oman Islamic Economic Forum in May. The success of the event can be seen by the growing number of Islamic banks in the country.
Much needs to be done to offer a counter narrative to the spectre of terrorism. The Islamic finance industry offers much to act as a bulwark to the deluded views of Muslims and non-Muslims who connect violence with religion. We in the industry have to continue pushing it forward otherwise this beautiful religion will be hijacked by the mad.