Um Ahmed, Egypt’s New First Lady

Um Ahmed, Egypt’s New First Lady

OnIslam & Newspapers Available at:

Seen as looking like most Egyptian women, Egypt’s new first lady, Naglaa Ali Mahmoud, wears a headscarf
CAIRO – Unlike former elegant, half-British first ladies, Egypt’s presidential palace is welcoming a small-town home-maker who loves to be called with a traditional nickname identifying her as the mother of her eldest son.

“She looks like my mother,” Dalia Saber, 36, an engineering lecture told The New York Times on Thursday, June 28, referring to the wife of Egypt’s first democratically-elected president Mohamed Morsi.

“She looks like my husband’s mother, she probably looks like your mother and everybody else’s.”

New Egypt (Special Coverage)

Arabs Want Bigger Islam Role in Life: Poll

Seen as looking like most Egyptian women, Egypt’s new first lady, Naglaa Ali Mahmoud, wears a headscarf.

Unlike her predecessors, Suzanne Mubarak and Jihan el-Sadat, aloof, half British fashion plates with well-coiffed hair and advanced degrees, she did not attend college and never took her husband’s last name.

She even refuses to take the title of “First Lady”, preferring instead to be called “Um Ahmed”, a traditional nickname that identifies her as the mother of her eldest son.

“People like Suzanne Mubarak are the odd ones out — you don’t see them walking down the street,” said Mariam Morad, 20, a psychology student.

“This is exactly what we need: change.”

The beginning of Egypt’s new first lady was very typical of many Egyptians.

She grew up in the poor Cairo neighborhood of Ain Shams and married her husband, Morsi, when she was 17 and still in high school.

Morsi himself had grown up poor in the village of El-Adwa in the Nile Delta province of Sharqiya, but excelled in the engineering program at Cairo University.

Three days of their wedding, Morsi left for Los Angeles to complete his Ph.D. at the University of Southern California.

Meantime, his wife finished high school and studied English in Cairo.

Mahmoud joined her husband in Los Angeles a year and a half later, where she volunteered at the Muslim Student House, translating sermons for women willing to revert to Islam.

In Los Angeles, they got the first two of their five children, who hold American citizenship.

Completing his degree, Morsi decided to return to Egypt to have his children grown up there.

In Egypt, Morsi taught engineering at Zagazig University, while his wife, a homemaker, became an instructor in the Brotherhood’s parallel women’s auxiliary, teaching young girls about marriage.

New Egypt

But some Egyptians opine that the new first lady is unfit for the position.

“I can’t call her a first lady under any circumstances,” said Ahmed Salah, 29, a banker having coffee with his friends on the Nile island of Zamalek.

“She can’t be an image for the ‘ladies’ of Egypt.”

Debates have also raged in Egyptian newspapers and social networks about the image of Egypt’s new first lady.

“How could she receive world leaders and still adhere to her traditional Islamic standards of modesty? “Don’t look at her. Don’t shake hands with her,” El-Fagr newspaper asked in a column, calling it a “comic scenario.”

Noran Noaman, 21, an engineering student, also fumes at the image of the new first lady.

“If you travel to New York or wherever, people would make fun of you and say: ‘Your first lady wears the abaya,” she said.

“Previous first ladies used to be elegant.”

But this argument is rejected by many Egyptians, who see Morsi and his wife as an example on the major changes in Egypt following the revolution.

“They’re people like us,” Saber, the engineering lecturer, said.

“It is a strange relief to people. The people feel that there’s a change.”

In Egyptian culture, men rarely talk about their wives publically and mentioning their name is almost a taboo.

But Morsi, who will be sworn in on Saturday, June 30, is unusually appreciative of his wife.

He once said in a television interview that marrying her was “the biggest personal achievement of my life.”

Mahmoud remembers that her husband sometimes helped her with chores and even cooked for her.

“I like everything about him,” she told the magazine Nesf el-Donia.

“Our fights never lasted for more than a few minutes.”

Now, it is only about a few days before Morsi and his wife move from their home to the presidential palace.

“All I want is to live in a simple place where I can perform my duties as a wife,” she said.

“A place like the presidential palace completely isolates you from the world people live in, and going too far hardens the heart.”

Zulkifli Hasan

Istanbul, Turki


The Muslim Brotherhood connects with Egypt’s rural majority

The Muslim Brotherhood connects with Egypt’s rural majority

Many may hate the Brotherhood, but its concern for the poor has helped to make it the region’s most successful grassroots movement

Magdi Abdelhadi Available at:

‘Mohamed Morsi was certainly aided by many secular voters who, despite their visceral dislike of the Muslim Brothers, voted for him to prevent a return to the old regime.’ Photograph: Str/EPA
The Muslim Brothers have been hounded and persecuted throughout their long history, so their resilience and tenacity is not only to be admired and respected, but should also be held as an example for those who wish to make a difference in Egypt’s vibrant but chaotic post-Mubarak political landscape.

You may not like their populism, conservatism and anachronistic ideology, but as an organisation they are impressive. I don’t ever recall visiting their headquarters or talking to their leaders without feeling a strong sense of discipline, focus and commitment.

Their history is evidence that they have paid a heavy price for their belief in an idea. Their founder, Hassan al-Banna, was assassinated by state agents in 1949. One of their best-known intellectuals, Sayyid Qutb, was hanged by Nasser in 1966. Many have languished in jails for years.

It would have been profoundly unfair to deny them the fruit of their long and unwavering political struggle.

It’s true that notorious jihadi groups have been inspired by the teachings of Qutb – namely that modern society is pagan and ungodly and that true Muslims should reject it and take up arms against it.

But the Muslim Brotherhood of today has distanced itself from such ideas and is committed to normal politics.

The organisation may be run by old men, but it has proven to be nimble, astute, pragmatic and far-sighted. Its repeated electoral victories are ample evidence.

Although it had originally promised not to contest the presidential election, in the end it had to. Critics accused it of opportunism and lying. On the contrary, contesting the election was a far-sighted decision which was finally vindicated.

The reason for the Brotherhood changing its mind lies in the bumpy and chaotic political struggle with the ruling army generals on the one hand, and secular forces on the other.

The Brotherhood knew that there was a big risk that the constitutional court would dissolve the parliament where it had a majority. Fearing that it might be left out in the cold, it fielded its strongman, Khairat El Shater. But suspecting that Shater might be disqualified on technical grounds (which he subsequently was) the Brotherhood had a plan B: Mohamed Morsi who – against all the odds – won the race.

If that’s is not politics of the highest order, I don’t know what is.

Despite Morsi’s obvious drawbacks – dullness and lack of charisma and his being the movement’s second choice – he won. He was certainly aided in that by many secular voters who, despite their visceral dislike of the Muslim Brothers, voted for him to prevent a return to the old regime.

The electoral campaign was not as slick and costly as that of Ahmed Shafiq, which was paid for by Mubarak-era businessmen now hiding in Europe. The Brotherhood’s history and reputation were subjected to a relentless campaign of scaremongering and character assassination in state as well as private media. Yet it fended off all that.

The Brotherhood was also the first to produce a credible vote tally that showed Morsi as the winner. Many disagreed, but the tally was largely confirmed when the official result was announced. That too should be added to the Brotherhood’s score sheet.

This is an organisation based on a commitment to an idea, years of training and discipline. That’s how you build a political party. Parties built around a person or a group of people will eventually die when they pass away or when they fall out, as often is the case in Egypt.

There are so many people who hate the Muslim Brothers in Egypt and beyond. But no one can deny that they have proven to be the most successful grassroots movement across the entire region.

The Brotherhood is the closest one can find in Egypt today to an independent political institution where established practices and commitment to an idea seem to trounce blood ties and financial interests.

It’s not only populist, but also truly popular. Its members are drawn from all walks of life – middle-class professionals as well as workers and peasants.

Although the leadership is made up mainly of academic and professionals, they tend to come from a rural environment. That makes them more organically linked to the social fabric of the countryside (where a majority of Egyptians live) than the urban-based secular parties.

Their hospitals and other charity work have been a key component in their history to evolve as a movement from and to the people. This has often been criticised by their rivals as bribing the electorate. That may very well appear to be so at times of election.

But their bond with their constituencies is not seasonal. Care for the poor and the weak is central to Islamic teaching, and they would not have enjoyed the support they do if they had not lived up to those ideals.

Egypt’s “liberal” millionaires may be able to open party headquarters up and down the country and spend lavishly to buy support but they will not produce commitment based on belief in an idea.

I have frequently heard liberals complain that Tahrir Square had been hijacked by the “riff raff”, or “backward” Egyptians from the countryside on days when the majority of those demonstrating there were supporters of the Muslim Brothers and other Islamist groups.

This goes to show not only how cut off the secular minority is from the rest of country, but how little respect they have for the poor and ordinary people.

Egypt is certainly not in the middle and upper class enclaves of Zamalek and Mohandiseen of Cairo. The majority of Egyptians live in the countryside.

Unless the liberals and other secular forces learn from the commitment and organisational skills of the Muslim Brothers, leave their affluent ghettos in the big cities and venture out in the countryside, they will remain condemned to a handful of seats in any future election.

Zulkifli Hasan

Durham, UK

Islamic banking assets set to reach $1.1 trillion in 2012

Islamic banking assets set to reach $1.1 trillion in 2012

Issac John Available at:

With the gap between Islamic and conventional banking solutions narrowing substantially, banking assets of the Shariah-complaint segment — growing twice as fast as conventional banking assets — are expected to reach $1.1 trillion globally in 2012, up 33 per cent from 2010, Standard Chartered said on Monday.
With the fast development of the Islamic banking industry, Muslim high net worth individuals, or HNWIs, are increasingly expecting Shariah compliance in managing their wealth, making Islamic wealth management solutions a key market need, Standard Chartered Private Bank said at the launch of a comprehensive suite of Islamic financial solutions for its clients. In an earlier forecast, Standard Chartered said Islamic banking assets in the UAE would grow to 20 per cent of the total banking sector in 2012 from an estimated 18 per cent in 2011.

The bank had said it expected Islamic assets to constitute 38 per cent of total consumer banking assets in the UAE in 2012, compared to about 35 per cent in 2010. It didn’t provide a 2011 estimate. According to the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the collective assets of the eight Islamic banks in the UAE were at Dh269 billion at the end of 2010, accounting for around 16.2 per cent of the overall banking assets of Dh1.66 trillion.

Noor Islamic Bank chief executive Hussain Al Qemzi, speaking recently at the 2nd Annual Middle East Islamic Finance and Investment Conference, said the global Islamic finance industry could grow from its present $1 trillion to around $4 trillion within five years as untapped markets such as China open up and new products drive demand.

The new suite of financial solutions from Standard Chartered include fiduciary deposits, property financing, equities, Islamic fixed income instruments, or sukuks, mutual funds, third-party structured products and discretionary services. These solutions are now available to clients across the Private Bank’s booking centres in London, Geneva, Jersey and Dubai Standard Chartered Saadiq.

Khalid El Gibaly, Standard Chartered Bank’s regional head of consumer banking in the UAE and Middle East, said the bank had identified a latent demand among its existing and prospective private banking clients for Islamic private banking solutions. “The launch of our Global Islamic Private Banking offering out of the region is testament to our strategic focus on the Middle East region,” he said.

The new Islamic financial solutions will be delivered in collaboration with Standard Chartered Saadiq, the bank’s Islamic banking arm. With the launch of this offering, Standard Chartered is now able to provide private banking clients a full spectrum of financial solutions — from those who require conventional to those who require Islamic banking, said El Gibaly.

Commenting on the Islamic private banking potential, Stephen Richards Evans, Standard Chartered’s regional head of private banking for Europe, Middle East, India, Africa and Americas, said in the GCC alone, there are more than 500,000 HNWIs with net investible assets of over $1.7 trillion, and this number is rapidly growing in light of relatively better economic conditions in the region compared to other parts of the world.

“However, this segment remains one of the most underdeveloped and underserved amongst all the Islamic banking client segments,” he added.

Wasim Akhtar Saifi, Standard Chartered Saadiq’s group head of Islamic banking and consumer banking, said although Islamic banking solutions have become increasingly available, there are few viable Shariah-compliant alternatives for HNWIs. “There is a need to adopt a more holistic view towards wealth management for this segment. The launch of Islamic financial solutions for our private banking clients broadens the overall spectrum of wealth management solutions… We plan to continue to expand the range of Shariah-compliant solutions.”

Zulkifli Hasan


Mega Islamic bank will set benchmark

Mega Islamic bank will set benchmark

IPOH: The setting up of mega Islamic banks in Malaysia will not merely serve the needs of the domestic economy but also position the country as the benchmark in Islamic global finance, said Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah.

It would also place Malaysia far ahead of other competing countries, he said.

“Bank Negara has issued one licence. Why is there such a need… we need to see in the context of the country’s economy.

“Under the National Key Economic Areas, financial services are among the economic growth sectors and it is also an area where we are competing with other countries,” he told reporters after officiating the opening of Mydin’s 100th chain store and its 10th hypermarket at Gugusan Manjoi.

Bank Negara so far has not made any announcement on the licence’s receipient.

Last March, the central bank expected two entities, which were given temporary licences to set up mega Islamic banks, to make the announcements on their investment plans.

Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz said the central bank had given them more time to announce their plans considering the current challenging environment and the high investment cost involved. — Bernama

ZUlkifli Hasan

Muscat, Oman

World needs 50,000 Islamic finance experts

World needs 50,000 Islamic finance experts’

Tariq Khattak Available at:

Islamabad—In accordance with the growing industry of Islamic Banking and Finance, the whole world needs 50,000 Islamic Finance Experts right away so that the emerging market of Islamic Banking and Finance may be easily promoted. These thoughts were expressed by Mr. Muhammad Zubair Mughal, Chief Executive Officer – AlHuda Centre of Islamic Banking and Finance, during his speech on the topic of “Importance of Islamic Finance Education” in “Moscow Halal Expo” held in Moscow. He said that due to the malfunctioning of conventional banking and finance, the world is moving rapidly towards alternative system of banking and finance and undoubtedly, the Islamic banking and finance system is the first and the foremost choice of people in this regard because the global financial crisis had very fewer impact on Islamic finance industry which is the assurance of its future success, said a press release issued here today.

He said that education of Islamic banking and finance is badly needed internationally. At this time, 38 universities in the world are producing approximately 5000 graduates of Islamic banking and finance per annum, whereas relatively its demand is 10 times more around the globe. If this demand and supply would not be balanced in short time then Islamic banking and finance industry may face many obstacles in its growth and promotion. In the recent era, conventional bankers are being provided with trainings having some of the essentials of Islamic banking and finance in order to adjust them in Islamic financial system which is a wrong approach and is creating many reservations in financial industry. He further said that in order to establish Islamic banking and finance system on strong pillars, it is needed to produce graduates with complete knowledge of Islamic banking and finance having full command on Shari’ah, Fiqah and banking. In this regard, AlHuda Centre of Islamic Banking and Economics has introduced its MBA and Post Graduate Diploma on Islamic banking and finance based on the mode of Distance learning so that the people of countries which currently do not have any facilities of Islamic banking and finance could get advantage of this facility from their office or home and strengthen the rapidly emerging market of Islamic banking.

He said that 4 types of approaches should be adopted in order to educate masses in the field of Islamic banking and finance. 1) Graduation, Masters and Post Graduate Diploma programs on Islamic banking and finance should be arranged at University or College level in order to produce incumbents who could fulfill the responsibilities in Islamic financial institutions at managerial level in an excellent manner. 2) At post graduate level, one year diploma and six months certificate courses on different topics like Islamic banking, Sukuk (Islamic Bond), Takaful (Islamic Insurance), Islamic Fund and Islamic Microfinance should be arranged so that the experts in these fields could be produced. 3) Online programs on Islamic banking and finance should be promoted so that the awareness of Islamic banking and finance may be promoted worldwide as only 20 countries are providing education in this field. 4) Workshops, trainings and publications in the field of Islamic banking and finance should be promoted in order to encourage awareness among masses regarding this.

Zulkifli Hasan

Durham University, UK

Islamic finance, in trying to become more popular, loses its firm roots in religion and ethics.

Islamic finance: Notion of stewardship imbues business ethics

By Emmanuellle Smith

Since the start of the global economic crisis in 2008, financial education has been under increased scrutiny from those dissecting what went wrong. Who, after all, had trained the perpetrators of the crisis? Were the “masters of the universe” ever taught about ethics? And if not, why not?
Training in Islamic finance, which was already gaining in popularity pre-crisis, has grown from strength to strength, as it has developed a reputation as a haven of common sense and relative security in uncertain times.

At least two of the causes of the crisis – gharar (risk) and gambling – are banned by sharia (Islamic law).“Several of the ethical lapses which occurred in the financial sector are prohibited in Islam,” says Omneya Abdelsalam, the director of the El Shaarani Research Centre for Islamic Business and Finance and the director of the MSc in Islamic Finance at Aston Business School. “[The crisis] highlighted the resilience of Islamic banks.”

She says that religious beliefs, not limited to Islam, can help leaders be more responsible in business.
“The belief in God, and that absolute ownership of everything is solely His, brings with it an acute level of responsibility and accountability based on the notion of stewardship, which is equally placed on each individual, given that all mankind is believed to be equal before God.

“Such beliefs have a direct and powerful impact on the way business is conducted.”
This “notion of stewardship” or khalifa, common to all Abrahamic faiths but particularly central to Islam, overlaps considerably with corporate social responsibility and transparency, two areas that have enjoyed a post-crisis boom.

Dr Abdelsalam says khalifa manifests itself in Islamic businesses “through fulfilling social responsibility of the business to the best of its capabilities, including fair treatment of employees, care for the environment and customers, and fulfilling the obligation towards shareholders and other stakeholders, through wise use of financial resources”.

At Aston, the Masters in Islamic finance encourages students to think about ethics in every module, be it accounting, contract law, or conventional finance modules.

Cedomir Nestorovic, a professor of Islamic business and management at the Singapore campus of Essec, a French business school, agrees that Islamic finance courses need to address these issues.
He says: “A course about Islamic finance should not be teaching financial techniques alone. There must be a part dealing with religious and ethical issues, explaining the rationale behind the industry.”
Prof Nestorovic adds that elements such as marketing and management must also become more integral parts of Islamic courses, so that they increase their breadth.

One criticism aimed at Islamic finance instruments and banks, or Islamic finance divisions within conventional banks, is they do not embrace the spirit of sharia, but try to find ways round it, in an emulation of conventional finance.

“There is a trend to consider Islamic finance as a ‘cosmetic’ industry where products and services are conventional ones with an Islamic veneer, the only purpose to obtain clearance from thesharia board,” says Prof Nestorovic.
The danger is that Islamic finance, in trying to become more popular, loses its firm roots in religion and ethics.
Some Islamic scholars, adds Prof Nestorovic, “consider that Islam finance does not exist because riba (interest, banned under sharia) is embedded in contracts, even if it is not labelled as such”.
“There is also a certain disagreement between Islamic countries about the definition of a tangible asset and some accounting principles.
“All in all, there is a gap between what is taught and realities for a certain number of observers,” says Prof Nestorovic.

Zulkifli Hasan

Estadio Santiago De Barnebau, Madrid, Spain

MAS issues RM2.5b perpetual sukuk, risky financing for working capital

MAS issues RM2.5b perpetual sukuk, risky financing for working capital

By Lee Wei Lian Available at:

KUALA LUMPUR, June 12 — Loss-making Malaysia Airlines (MAS) will be the first company in Malaysia to establish an Islamic perpetual bond today totalling RM2.5 billion for its operations even as concern rises in the region over the growing demand of the higher risk bonds.

This comes after reports that the Monetary Authority of Singapore is increasingly concerned over the unprecedented demand for perpetual bonds, also known as perps, which typically entice investors with higher coupon rates in exchange for accepting a higher level of risk as there is a possibility their capital may not be repaid, hence the term perpetual.

MAS posted a RM2.52 billion loss for 2011.
The Thai SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) also issued a warning earlier this month for investors to fully understand the details of subordinated debentures, which is corporate debt that ranks as a low priority for repayment.
MAS said that the perpetual junior sukuk will be recognised not as debt but as equity and payment obligations will at all times be junior to the claims of present and future creditors of the flag carrier but ahead of other share capital instruments. The national airline has RM1.3 billion of loans outstanding and no bonds, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The tenure of the sukuk is perpetual and MAS has a call option to redeem the junior sukuk at the end of the 10th year and on each following periodic distribution date.

MAS can also redeem the junior sukuk if there is a change in accounting standards resulting in it no longer being recognised as equity.

The airline may also defer periodic distributions but the deferred distributions will be cumulative.

The sukuk will also not be rated.

Opus Asset Management chief investment officer Siaw Wei Tang said it was important for prospective investors to read and understand the terms and conditions of perpetual bonds.

He noted that some perpetual bonds in the past had the option of not paying periodic distributions if the company did not issue dividends.

Chris Eng, head of research of the investment management division at Etiqa Insurance and Takaful, said that what was important about the MAS perpetual sukuk was whether it has a government guarantee.

He added that perpetual bonds could be more interesting for insurance companies given their long dated liabilities.

“I would only look at Malaysia Airlines’ bond above 6 percent given the turbulence in the aviation industry,” Chan Cheh Shin, who manages RM850 million as head of sukuk at OSK-UOB Islamic Fund Management Bhd in Kuala Lumpur, said in a May 25 interview with Bloomberg. “The company’s financials aren’t great. A perpetual bond also has all the downsides of common shares such as huge volatility and default risk.”

Yields on global sukuk, which pay returns on assets to comply with Islam’s ban on interest, dropped 22 basis points, or 0.22 percentage point, this year to 3.77 percent, according to the HSBC/Nasdaq Dubai US Dollar Sukuk Index. The difference between average yields and the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, narrowed 12 basis points to 261.

Reuters reported that more perpetual bonds were sold in Singapore in the first three months of 2012 than in the previous 15 years.

The newswire said that perpetual bonds offered companies the “tantalising” opportunity to raise funds with no dated maturity and avoiding any impact on gearing ratios.

The bonds also offer higher coupons, attractive for investors in a low interest-rate environment, but come with high duration risk since there is no repayment guarantee.

The perpetual junior sukuk of up to RM2.5 billion is part of MAS’s RM9 billion fund raising plan and the proceeds are expected to be used for its working capital needs and refinancing of existing borrowings.

The airline posted a RM2.52 billion loss for 2011.

Zulkifli Hasan

Kuala Lumpur