THE NEED FOR AN ARAB CULTURAL REVOLUTION

THE NEED FOR AN ARAB CULTURAL REVOLUTION

By Tariq Ramadan Available at: http://www.tariqramadan.com/spip.php?article12840

Culture constitutes an essential element of human life. As people have risen up across the Middle East and North Africa, the diversity of their cultures is not only the means but also the ultimate goal of their liberation and their freedom. Though imperialism was primarily political and economic, it was also cultural; it imposed ways of life, habits, perceptions and values that rarely respected the societies under its domination, that seized control of minds — a true colonisation of human intelligence.

Globalisation extends to culture, often leading, in the societies of the Global South, to self-dispossession. Genuine liberation, the march toward dignity and democracy, requires a “cultural uprising” in all dimensions of its popular, artistic, intellectual and religious expressions. The importance of culture and the arts in undertaking the task of re-appropriation is critical: the tools of thought and tradition must be used to lend shape and substance to the sense of belonging that alone can guarantee the well-being of individuals. If there is no culture without religion, and no religion without culture and if, finally, culture is not religion, the issue must be explored; the complex questions of values, meaning, spirituality, tradition and the arts — the factors that give form to history, memory, nations and identities; that transmit well-being and freedom, or fail to — must be faced squarely.

Arab and Muslim majority societies are riven by religious and cultural tensions that have at times torn them apart. The role of the religious reference is a subject of constant discussion and heated debate over relations with tradition and with Arabic — or other national languages — have set ruling elites and intellectuals at loggerheads. Close examination and study of these experiences leads but to one sole conclusion: we are dealing with a complex, deeply rooted malaise. Its dimensions are manifold: cultural, religious, linguistic and therefore, a fortiori, strongly identity-related.

It cuts across all social sectors, all classes, and all trends of thought, from secularists to Islamists and from atheists to believers, whether observant or not. The attraction-repulsion complex vis-à-vis the West is not new; it existed even before the colonial period. It has created an ambiguous relationship in which imaginations are fascinated and attracted by the now-global Western culture, while the same force of attraction is rejected by the analytical, cultural and ethical conscience that is experienced as self-dispossession, colonisation and on occasion as the violence of cultural rape. The “Arab problem” was never simply one of the violent dictatorships that succeeded political decolonisation; it has always lain in the perpetuation of an alienating and paralysing, if not destructive, intellectual colonisation.

More than intellectual constructs

The process of reclaiming the self is one of reconciliation with meaning. Cultures, along with the religions that shape and nurture them, are value systems, sets of traditions and habits clustered around one or several languages, producing meaning: for the self, for the here and now, for the community, for life. Cultures are never merely intellectual constructs. They take form through the collective intelligence and memory, through a commonly held psychology and emotions, through spiritual and artistic communion. The Arab awakening cannot afford to overlook these, the fundamental dimensions of freedom and of the liberation of individuals and societies. The Islamic reference is of crucial importance and cries out for special attention for, like all religious references, it can have, in particular historical circumstances, a positive, liberating function — or become a reactionary, dogmatic and authoritarian instrument, an instrument of oppression. Its examination must be preceded by political and economic analysis, by systematic reference to studies in anthropology, cultures and religions.

Cultural emancipation is imperative, and will require a holistic approach. If the message of religion is to be reconciled with spirituality, cultural fulfillment can only be achieved through the celebration of and respect for the languages, memories and heritage of all, and with the positive integration of minority ethnic affiliations and dialects.

Negative effects of globalisation

Along with the West, Africa, the Islamic Orient and Asia have fallen into the trap set by the negative effects of globalisation, including but not limited to exclusivist, sectarian if not deadly claims to culture and identity. The same claims are omnipresent in the Arab world as well. Hence the importance of cultural policies, which must be developed in tandem with social policy, drawn from the common ground that determines the sense of national belongs.

Culture lends meaning to a horizon. Everything in the heritage of culture and tradition is worthy of celebration. To achieve cultural liberation means calling into question all possible forms of parallel and/or secondary alienation: economic dispossession is devastating, just as cultural imperialism can be. Spirituality, posited as a point of recall, as a quest for meaning in and through itself, individually and collectively, is an act of liberation. Yet it must be part of an open, constructive involvement that, acting from within society and in full respect of the pluralism that distinguishes those of the Middle East and North Africa, will determine the ultimate goals that body forth the cultures whose substance constitutes the narrative of each nation.

To assert culture, memory and identity is to assert that they are meaningful, to affirm that they are capable of addressing the challenges of the day. To assert one’s self is to become a subject, to take full responsibility for one’s heart, body and mind, as well as for one’s fellows, one’s society, and for nature itself. The imperative of coherence is incontrovertible; the very condition of genuine well-being and freedom. Western societies are today taking stock of the deficiencies that afflict them, that undermine the principles of democracy by maintaining a culture of fear and insecurity. Insecurity of mind is the negative image of peace of heart. Arab societies are undergoing a similar crisis, in a different way perhaps, but with equal intensity.

An awakening required

They suffer from a malaise of incoherence, and no amount of reform, or of political freedom, will resolve the feeling of unease that has sapped the foundations of East and West alike. There is no lack of obstacles to be overcome in the Middle East and North Africa. Both the political and economic difficulties are well known, as is the strength of the people’s cultural and religious references; the potential for spiritual and ethical opening is palpable. What remains is to find the means for their multiform expression. It is time to remind ourselves that in the profoundest of Islamic teachings, believers do not rise to pray during the night in order to find themselves and forget the world; they do so indeed to find themselves, the better to invest the daylight hours with meaning, and to reform the world. The Arab world and Muslim majority societies stand in need of an awakening that is responsible, free of illusions, self-critical and resolutely positive as much as they stand in need of creativity and imagination.

Reconciliation with self, liberation from intellectual and cultural colonialism, not to mention the emergence of an “Arab subject” can only take place when new life is breathed into our relationship with meaning and with ultimate goals, only when imagination, art, literature, painting and music are reclaimed. Science too, along with knowledge and the ways in which women and men express themselves and their imaginations, their hurts and desires, their grief and their hopes. The Arab world is in the throes of another crisis: the crisis of a fettered imagination from which it is struggling to escape, and that has a powerful impact on its very wellbeing. By this token, the Arab awakening must do more than overthrow dictators. It must break free of the fetters that decades of abdication have applied to the order of science, knowledge, esthetics, art and beauty in general.

Regards
P1120719
With grand Mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dr Mustafa Ceric

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Risk Management in Islamic Finance

Risk Management in Islamic Finance

by MOHAMMAD NAUSHAD KHAN Available at: http://www.radianceweekly.com/353/10423/obama039s-peace-antics-in-israel-four-more-years-of-this/2013-04-07/report/story-detail/risk-management-in-islamic-finance.html

A case study of Bahrain was presented in order to focus on issues and challenges of risk management in Islamic financial industry by Kashif Hasan Khan at a programme organised by Forum for Discussion on Economic Issues, a joint forum of Sahulat and Radiance Viewsweekly in the Capital on 24 March.

The crux of his case study is to decode and simplify the problems of survival of Islamic finance industry which is expanding on each passing day despite confronting risk of varied nature. The other key aspect of his study is also aimed to find out and understand how the concerned scholars of this field have dealt with this emerging trend in the recent years and also to understand the nature of theoretical and practical development in the area of Islamic finance. As of now, the Islamic Banking and Finance is considered to be an alternative to the conventional banking and finance system.

The history of Islamic finance is roughly forty years old and surely has got ample space to grow in the present system despite many hurdles and resistance at various levels. Islamic banking and finance is in practice for a long time but it has gained popularity in the last decade. These banks operating on Islamic principles have managed to attract business not only from Islamic countries but also from some non-Islamic countries. Even after noticeable advancement and achievement it has faced controversies based on concept and practices.

On general note, the risk faced by conventional bank and Islamic Financial Institution are more or less the same but the magnitude of these risks are different for Islamic banks because of their compliance with Shari’ah. Apart from risk faced by traditional institutions, the Islamic institution faces some other forms of risk such as Shari’ah risk, unique risk, credit risk and operational risk. Also profit sharing feature of Islamic banking induces some additional risks.

The other important aspect is to be noted as per his study is that Islamic banks still lack the robust and effective risk management practices. In order to come out from such type of risk some banks in the Gulf region like ABC Islamic Bank in Bahrain has decided to make operational risk transparent throughout its enterprise to which end process is being developed to provide for regular reporting of relevant operational risk management information to business management, senior management, as well as to the Operational Risk Committee of ABC and the Board of Directors.

As per the findings of his study, he has concluded that risk management should be tackled in view of the cost implication because by not managing the cost the risk at times be larger than managing it. For Islamic banks effective regulation authorities must have sound knowledge and experience in dealing with risk management issues. The finding also shows that a majority of Islamic banks in Bahrain are using RAROC, GAP Analysis and value at risk for risk measurement. And for risk mitigation banks are normally dependent on derivatives followed by securitization, Guarantees, loan loss reserves, etc. The study also reflects that many banks in Bahrain have made substantial progress and progress in their development and implementation of risk measures.

Regards
Zulkifli Hasan
204247_1871670082824_510456_o
With MH Faruqi, Chief Editor and Founder of Impact International in London.

Qatar to emerge as Islamic finance hub

Qatar to emerge as Islamic finance hub

Available at: http://arabiangazette.com/qatar-to-emerge-as-islamic-finance-hub-20130411/

Qatar is expected to assume a prominent position in the global Islamic finance market with its increased public spending and favorable financial regulations.

A new report has predicted that Qatar will soon become a “key international distribution hub” for Shariah-compliant products as the Islamic finance market grows at an unprecedented pace.

Qatar Financial Centre Authority in its first ‘Mena Asset Management Barometer‘ suggests that Qatar’s position in the Islamic finance market will be boosted with the development of new infrastructure projects that will help in the growth of alternative fund structures and encourage public-private partnerships.

Currently, about 50 percent of the funds in Qatar are Shariah-compliant. Therefore, along with Saudi Arabia, Qatar is rated as a prominent Islamic finance fund centre. The demand for Shariah-compliant products is expected to grow because of increased interest from MENA’s internal markets, Southeast Asia, Australia and pension funds in the UK and Europe.

The report also highlights that the asset management sector in Qatar is still in its infancy and the alternative sector will need time to develop. In 2013, the respondents believe that asset management sector will develop well because of increased infrastructure spending, financial support of government agencies and financial regulation to promote strategy diversity among the country’s pool of asset management firms.

As Qatar accelerates infrastructure investment on projects related to hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the country envisages public investment plans worth USD 95 billion over five years. Several private equity and infrastructure funds are keen to relocate to Qatar in order to benefit from the country’s infrastructure boom through direct investment or by holding stakes in firms engaged in supply chains of the development projects.

The survey respondents also believe that within the MENA region, Qatar was most likely to introduce short-selling regulations that would help in the creation of a domestic hedge fund sector. The country was also chosen by hedge fund management firms as the most favored location to establish a presence in the GCC.

Regards
Zulkifli Hasan

204247_1871670082824_510456_o
Visited MH Faruqi, Editor of Impact International, London

Strengthening Islamic finance’s link to real economy to provide new growth impetus for Islamic finance industry

Strengthening Islamic finance’s link to real economy to provide new growth impetus for Islamic finance industry

Available at: http://www.ameinfo.com/strengthening-islamic-finances-link-real-economy-335753

The 3rd Annual Middle East Islamic Finance and Investment Conference (MEIFIC 2013) to gather more than 250 Islamic finance industry leaders in Dubai this April for strategic discussions on mapping a new growth path for the regional Islamic finance and investments industry.

The Ernst and Young World Islamic Banking Competitiveness Report, which was launched last December at the 19th Annual World Islamic Banking Conference (WIBC Global), noted that the Islamic banking industry is growing 50% faster than overall banking sector in several core markets.

With the global Islamic banking assets with commercial banks now surpassing the $1.5 trillion mark and estimates projecting the industry to hit the $2 trillion mark by 2015, the global Islamic finance industry is undoubtedly one of the fastest growing components of the global financial system. According to recent estimates by Ernst & Young’s Global Islamic Banking Centre, Islamic banking assets with commercial banks in the GCC reached $445bn at the end of 2012, up from $390bn in 2011, with the outlook for the industry remaining relatively positive in 2013.

Globally, the Islamic banking industry continues to record robust growth with industry reports indicating Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates, as the top three markets for Islamic assets. Reports indicate that in 2012 the Islamic banking industry in the GCC registered a 14% year-on-year growth, which represents a slight deceleration in the average growth rate over the past 5 years of 19%. Reports also indicate that profitability now looks to be stabilizing in major Islamic banking markets though Islamic banks have experienced a mixed recovery across markets. Given the current market conditions and the increasing demand for Islamic finance not only in the traditional markets of Middle East and South East Asia, but globally, the time is now perfect for the Islamic finance industry to further leverage its inherent strengths of being linked to real economic activities and play a key role in putting in place a holistic Islamic economic ecosystem.

It is against this background that the 3rd Annual Middle East Islamic Finance and Investment Conference (MEIFIC 2013) will be held at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Dubai on the 17th of April 2013. Co-located with the 8th Annual World Takaful Conference (WTC 2013) and held under the theme “Building the Islamic Economy: Strengthening Islamic Finance’s Links to the Real Economy”, MEIFIC 2013 is set to gather more than 250 regional and international Islamic finance leaders in a powerful dynamic platform to explore the emerging opportunities for Islamic finance and investments in the Middle East.

MEIFIC 2013 will be opened by a special inaugural address by Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Executive Chairman of Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC). Confirming his participation, Ahmed Bin Sulayem noted, “Islamic finance is playing an ever-increasing role in the global economic system. The substantial growth witnessed by the Islamic finance industry and its steady progress from niche to mainstream indicate a growing demand for financial products and services that are Sharia compliant. Islamic products have always been a major focus of the DMCC’s growth plan. We have built strong credentials as an Islamic trading centre, especially within the commodity trade finance sector. Our core product, DMCC Tradeflow, which operates as a web-based ownership registry, now offers Sharia compliant commodity Murabaha as well. We have identified asset-backed transactions, particularly the Islamic interbank liquidity market conducted through Murabaha mechanisms as a key growth sector. I look forward to attending MEIFIC 2013 and sharing our experience with DMCC Tradeflow and other developments within the Islamic finance industry.”

The inaugural address will be immediately followed by a special keynote address by Tayeb Abdulrahman Al Rais, Secretary General of the Awqaf & Minors Affairs Foundation in Dubai, who will discuss the role of AWQAF in supporting the Islamic economy.

A key highlight of MEIFIC 2013 will be the high profile keynote power debate that will focus discussions on boosting growth and the value of Islamic finance by further strengthening linkages to the real economy and mainstreaming products. The power debate session, chaired by Dr. Sayd Farook, Global Head Islamic Capital Markets at Thomson Reuters and featuring Harun Kapetanovic, Economic Adviser at Department of Economic Development, Government of Dubai; Moinuddin Malim, Chief Executive Officer of Mashreq Al Islami; Amr Al Menhali, EVP, Head of Islamic Banking at ADCB Islamic Banking; and Anouar Adham, Head of Asset Management at QIB – UK, will assess new growth opportunities for Islamic finance and will analyze how Islamic finance institutions can scale-up to better meet the needs of the real economy.

Commenting on their participation at the event, Amr Al Menhali, EVP, Head of Islamic Banking, ADCB Islamic Banking, said, “The Islamic finance industry is currently witnessing rapid transformation and continues to undergo significant change as the market moves from its niche status and gains a stronger foothold as an integral part of the financial system. With the rapid internationalization of Islamic finance and new jurisdictions – even non-Islamic, now embracing Islamic finance, the industry is experiencing even stronger growth momentum, especially given the increasing awareness of Islamic finance and its benefits of being more closely linked to real economic activities. The Middle East has been at the centre of Islamic finance activity and the region is viewed as one of the more mature markets. With a young, fast-growing population; robust macroeconomic factors and the boost in government spending and large infrastructure projects, major economies in the region, particularly the UAE, are witnessing promising signs of economic growth and it is now time for the region to further grow their Islamic finance capabilities. In addition to developing sophisticated products, improving distribution channels, which would certainly assist in increasing the market share of Islamic finance, the real opportunity is to create an integrated Islamic economic system by further strengthening the linkage of Islamic finance to real economic activities.”

“As a leading industry player, ADCB Islamic Banking is delighted to support the annual Middle East Islamic Finance and Investment Conference and we look forward to discussing new growth opportunities for Islamic finance in the region,” he added.

Regards
Zulkifli Hasan
S4022047
With my friends in Texas

CONTEMPORARY ISLAMIC CONSCIENCE IN CRISIS

CONTEMPORARY ISLAMIC CONSCIENCE IN CRISIS

Tariq Ramadan Available at: http://www.tariqramadan.com/spip.php?article12816

From Asia to North America, by way of the Middle East, Africa and Europe, the conclusion is inescapable: The contemporary Islamic conscience is in deep crisis. How to be a Muslim today? How to be faithful to one’s principles while remaining open to the world? How can Muslims deal with their diversity and overcome their multiple divisions? Can Muslim majority societies create new models of development, education and social justice; can they imagine economic alternatives?

Can the 1,000-year Islamic civilisation make an original contribution to the concert of cultures and civilisations? Everywhere, Muslim women and men, individuals and societies, ask themselves the same burning questions. The crisis drags on; no answer seems in sight. The light at the end of the tunnel seems nothing but an illusion.

Islam’s spiritual, religious and philosophical message is as clear as it is demanding. Humans are free beings who must assume full responsibility for their freedom by striving spiritually and intellectually for peace. Islam means the quest for peace: that of the heart as well as that of society: peace between citizens as well as nations. The message requires that we not neglect a single condition of peace, to keep constantly in mind the order and priority of ultimate goals. And if the ultimate of these goals is to respond to the Creator, and to love Him, if the essence of hope goes beyond the horizon of our earthly lives, it is no less true that life on this earth (“do not forget your part in this world”), knowledge (a message for those “imbued with intelligence”), dignity (“We have conferred dignity upon the children of Adam”), freedom (“No compulsion in religion”) and justice (“God commands justice and spiritual excellence”) are values and principles, and objectives to be attained in the here and now.

Our ultimate goals are clear; believers must participate in a jihad of humanity, dignity and conscience with their full hearts, minds and souls. As free beings they are called upon to act, with all the intensity of their faith, and to reform themselves and the world. Faith and belief in the One and Only means that they must never abandon hope among human beings. The most visible, the most serious signs of the crisis of the contemporary Islamic conscience can be found in the inversion of means and ends, and in the reversal of the order of the essential and the secondary. Inversion and reversal best describe the crisis that afflicts virtually every aspect of human activity, up to and including Islam’s spiritual message.

Believers are summoned to live their lives in the presence of the One and Only, by consciously behaving “as though they can see Him”. But many today, obsessed by their actions, their organisations, their movements, by power and money act in His name while forgetting the ultimate goal. Means have replaced ends, and the spiritual basis of action is lost, like a person at prayer who focuses his entire attention on the ritual movements of his body while forgetting to turn his heart upwards.

In dismay, some have sought to resist the drift by turning to spiritual teachings or joining mystic circles. Some have found genuine equilibrium, while among others we can observe troublesome excesses. While spirituality should help us change our lives, such peoples’ spiritual experience stands apart from their lives, which remain almost entirely untouched by the spiritual and ethical teachings they claim to follow. Still others turn their hearts almost entirely over to masters and guides whom they idealise, reducing themselves to a childish state. But at the heart of the Islamic message lies the shaping of free, responsible and autonomous beings in their relationship with God and with man. We have entered into a danger zone where a warped Muslim spirituality engenders human beings who are either potentially schizophrenic or suffer from serious emotional handicaps. The education of the heart should remind us of the ultimate goals of our existence; instead it ends up neglecting the most basic of all teachings. Spiritual exile is a means whose ultimate objective is reconciliation of the human being with his heart in a state of humility and peace. To exile oneself for the sole sake of exile may well be, in this perspective, a trap set by the ego that must be mastered and that, maliciously, may well end up dominating once again: the inversion is a pernicious one.

We find the same inversion when we examine the question of Islamic rules and regulations (the licit and the illicit, halal and haram) in today’s world. Whether a question of personal practice or social regulation, or even of applied legislation, we encounter the same dilemma: the hypertrophy of norms that limit, forbid and accuse while forgetting the higher objectives for the attainment of which these selfsame rules and laws were established in the first place. Discounting the most literalist trends, this reflex can be noted among a large number of jurisprudents (fuqaha) and simple believers who confuse respect for norms — while failing to take account of context and ultimate goals — with fidelity and its finality. The rule should be the means; now it has been transformed into an end.

Of course, we must assert, and emphasise, that clear-cut and unchangeable practices, duties, and proscriptions exist and must be respected. It is also true that some of them require knowledge of the context in which they apply if we wish to remain faithful to their logic. If we fail to do so, fundamental issues are neglected: over-definition of norms makes it possible to legitimise attitudes that may be legally licit, but do not respect Islamic ethics in matters of behaviour.

The treatment of animals provides an excellent example. Concentrating on the licit quality of meat slaughtered according to strict Islamic rules leads to overlooking, and not challenging, the unacceptable treatment of living creatures (including by Muslims). Examples are legion: the licit nature of the rule by no means guarantees the ethical basis of behaviour. This holds true in such diverse areas as social justice, relations between women and men, racism, pluralism, etc. The obsession with norms transforms them into an ultimate goal; they are no longer a means to an end, but the end itself, an inversion of priorities: the essence is forgotten and vanishes.

The Messenger (PBUH) clearly defined his message in terms of rules and regulations but also above and beyond them: “I was sent to complete proper [ethical] behaviour.” A rule is only as good as the ultimate goal that lends it its meaning. To pray without remembering the Unique One is no longer to pray.

The crisis is acute. To resolve it there must be an awakening, a renewal, and a revolution — in the literal sense — in our way of thinking. What the current state of confusion, the inversions and the reversals reveal is a state of mind, a collective psychology that, for generations, has attempted to integrate — to the point of transforming it into second nature — the idea of the victim who must so surround himself with rules, regulations and interdictions that he ultimately denatures the very meaning of Islam’s teachings. Shaped by psychological victimhood, constantly on the defensive, the norm indeed becomes an objective in and of itself, a limit, a framework that must be affirmed in order to prevent the loss of selfhood, alienation and ultimately, disintegration off the self. Such an attitude, natural enough as a first reflex of survival, can only produce a crisis of confidence and meaning if we remain entrapped by it, as we are today.

We are coming to the end of a historic cycle the likes of which Islamic civilisation has experienced many times before. Scholars and thinkers of the new generations will emerge to carry out the fundamental reform as to the way of reading the sacred texts in a spirit of renewal, faith and courage. Women and men who embody a reform of consciences that resists the dehumanisation of their spiritual being, who refuse to accept the world as it is, and who commit themselves to reform in their hearts and societies, not by adapting to what they have become, but by transforming them and leading them to what they must become, in freedom, dignity and peace.

Regards
Zulkifli Hasan
YVONNE RIDLEY
With Yvonne Ridley, Dr. Mazlee and my Palestinian friend in Durham.