Austria passes controversial reforms to Islam law banning foreign funding

Austria passes controversial reforms to Islam law banning foreign funding

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Austria’s parliament has pushed through controversial reforms to the country’s law on Islam, banning foreign sources of funding and requiring imams to speak German. Austria’s parliament adopted legislation on Wednesday amending laws on Muslim organisations to ban foreign sources of FINANCING and require imams to be able to speak German.

The new law aims to promote what conservative Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz called an “Islam of European character”, by muting the influence of foreign Muslim nations and organisations, but giving Austrian Muslims more legal security in practising their faith.
Austria’s previous “law on Islam” dates from 1912, after the annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina by the Austro-Hungarian empire.
The two-year-old bill passed by parliament on Wednesday predates the recent jihadist violence in France and Denmark, but is designed to “clearly combat” the growing influence of radical Islam, Mr Kurz said.
The new law will be carefully watched by other European countries facing the problem of SPREADING extremism.

Earlier this month French Prime Minister Manuel Valls similarly raised the notion of banning foreign FUNDING of Islamic organisations. Mr Kurz says officials in Germany and Switzerland have also expressed interest in the legislation.
Passage of the law comes amid estimates INDICATING around 200 people from Austria – including women and minors – have gone to Syria and Iraq to join jihadist militias like Islamic Front.

A poll published by the OGM institute on Tuesday found 58 per cent of Austrians feeling radicalisation of the nation’s Muslims was underway.
To combat the rising risk of radical indoctrination of foreign origin, the legislation bans Islamic cultural organisations and imams in Austria from receiving FUNDING from abroad.
It also requires the nearly 450 Muslim organisations in the country to demonstrate a “positive approach towards society and the state” in order to continue receiving official licensing.
Imams will be obliged to be able to speak German under the law – a bid to make their comments more accessible and transparent, while also facilitating the fuller integration of Islam into wider Austrian society.
“We want a future in which increasing numbers of imams have grown up in Austria speaking German, and can in that way serve as positive examples for young Muslims,” Kurz explained ahead of the vote.
The legislation also accords Muslims the right to consult Islamic clerics on the staffs of hospitals, retirement homes, prisons and in the armed forces.

Muslims in Austria will also have the right to halal meals in those institutions as well as in public schools, and will be allowed to skip work on Islamic holidays.
The adopted text scaled back farther-reaching measures contained in an earlier version, including the imposition of an “official” Koran in German that had sparked considerable controversy.
But the legislation has still generated opposition.
Before its adoption Turkey’s leading Muslim cleric, Mehmet Gormez, decried the bill as “a 100-year regression,” arguing no complaints have ever been lodged about the fact that Turkey FUNDS many imams in Austria.
The country’s main Islamic group, the Islamic Religious Authority of Austria, approved the bill despite other organisations denouncing its restrictions as “discrimination” that other religions aren’t saddled with.
Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, meantime, criticised the bill as insufficient in facing a rising threat, and dismissed it as a “placebo.”
Muslims make up roughly 560,000 of Austria’s total population of 8.5 million. Mist Austrian Muslims are of Turkish and Bosnian origin, as well as ethnic Chechens and Iranians.



Facing sanctions, Russian banks look to build Islamic finance know-how

Facing sanctions, Russian banks look to build Islamic finance know-how


(Reuters) – Russian banks are developing their expertise in Islamic finance to help broaden FUNDING sources for local firms, though Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis and the absence of a regulatory framework could hinder those efforts.

Russia’s Islamic banking sector is still in its infancy. But an estimated 20 million Muslims living in the country are a potential source of money, as are cash-rich Islamic FUNDSabroad.

Islamic finance has become a mainstream FUNDING source for some other governments and companies over the past several years, with even non-Muslim nations such as Britain and South Africa issuing debut Islamic bonds (sukuk) last year.

However, the European Union and the United States are seeking to cut overseas funding to Russian firms over Moscow’s support for rebels in eastern Ukraine. Banks in the Middle East and southeast Asia, the major MARKETS for sharia-compliant debt, are wary of becoming tangled in the sanctions.

So some Russian lenders are trying to build their own in-house knowledge of Islamic finance.

State development bank Vnesheconombank (VEB) [VNSCB.UL], which has been targeted by the sanctions, is seeking help from Middle East firms to develop its Islamic finance expertise, a spokesperson said, without naming those institutions.

“VEB sets as it goal diversification of project financing instruments, and among those considers Islamic finance tools.”

VTB Bank, Russia’s second-largest lender and another sanctions target, is exploring sukuk deals for several of its clients, although some questions remain over the accounting treatment of such transactions, the bank said in response to Reuters questions.

“Nonetheless, this remains a current issue, especially given growing interest in Asian MARKETS.”

In December, officials from institutions including Moscow Industrial Bank, VEB, SME Bank and the Russian Direct Investment Fund took part in a TRADE mission to the Gulf region, with Islamic finance featuring in the discussions.

In the same month, Russia’s National Rating Agency signed an agreement with the Bahrain-based Islamic International Rating Agency to jointly assign ratings for Islamic financial products.

This will allow sharia-compliance quality ratings to be assigned for sovereign debt and Islamic financial institutions, the Russian agency said in a statement. Firms ranging from an Islamic leasing firm in the Russian republic of Dagestan to a fish skin leather manufacturer in Ingushetia, another Russian republic, have received such ratings in the past.


The lack of a Russian regulatory framework for Islamic finance is an obstacle; both issuers and investors rely on clear regulations to reduce risk and costs.

In October, the Association of Russian Banks asked the central bank to help develop Islamic finance, suggesting it adopt a special federal law.

The regulator continues to study the question of introducing Islamic finance regulation but work is at an early stage, a central bank spokesperson told Reuters last week. It is not yet clear when any new rules would be drafted, he added.

The central bank could draw on the experiences of former Soviet republics Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, all of which are drafting new laws to regulate Islamic banking.

Even without a regulatory framework, Russia’s banking sector has seen some small-scale Islamic finance deals. Kazan-based AK BARS Bank, Russia’s 18th largest bank by assets, has raised a combined $160 million via two Islamic syndicated loans since 2011 and is open to tapping the MARKET for a third time.

“We will continue working in this direction, further diversifying our FUNDING,” said Elina Khayrullina, an official at AK BARS.

A sukuk issue by a local or regional government would be needed to encourage issuance by Russian companies, she said. “In general, sukuk might be an option for Russian companies given there is a benchmark at state or regional level.”

Azerbaijan’s largest bank plans to set up a stand-alone Islamic unit which would seek business across the region, including through its Russian subsidiary.

There have been false starts, however. The Russian republic of Tatarstan has planned for a sukuk issue as far back as 2011, but no deal has materialized.

Zulkifli Hasan

Islamic Revivalism in the 21st Century: Myth or Reality


12th INTERNATIONAL YOUTH GATHERING (IYG), 1st February 2015/ Sunday

Islamic Revivalism in the 21st Century: Myth or Reality

Zulkifli Hasan, PhD (Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM))

1. Rahmatan lil ‘Alamin, Ummatism and Islah
2. Current State of Muslims Ummah
3. The Causes of Decline
4. The Need for Reform

Rahmatan Lil ‘Alamin

TAWHID: The essence of Islam is al Tawhid. Muslim is definable by his adherence to Al Tawhid.
Al Tawhid: Acknowledging God as sole Creator of the universe and Equalizing all men as creatures of God.
MERCY/COMPASSION/ BENEVOLENCE: “My mercy embraces everything” (7:156)
To all the world, both believers and disbelievers.
The social order of Islam is universal, enveloping the whole of mankind.
Islamic social order holds Islam relevant to every era of human activity.
The qualities of humanness are possessed by all mankind by nature.


The ideal of the universal community is expressed in the word ‘Ummah’.
“Thus have We made of you an Ummah, Justly balanced, that you might be witnesses over the nations.“ (2: 143)
“You are the best ummah brought forth unto mankind, enjoining good works, prohibiting evil and putting your faith in Allah” (3: 110).
“Let there be of you an ummah, which calls men to good works and prohibits evil. Such are the felicitous” (3: 104)
“This is your ummah-one, united and integral and I am your Lord, Serve Me” (21: 92)
A universal society whose membership includes the widest possible variety of ethnicities or communities (sya’b or qawm) but whose commitment to Islam binds them to a specific social order (al Faruqi).

Ummatic Vision

Muslim Ummah: a mission which upholds a vision for mankind.
“We have made you a mid-most (just) community” (2: 143)
“O believers! Be establishers of Justice, Witness for God” (4: 135)
“Indeed We have sent forth Our Messengers with clear messages, and We sent down them the Book and the Balance, so that men may establish Justice” (57: 25).
Muslims have religious duties to undertake individually and collectively active struggle to establish justice.
Justice is the criterion (al-mizan) by which God will evaluate mankind;
Injustice triggers the decline of civilization (Ibnu Khaldun).

Islamic Revivalism: Reform, Resurgence, Renewal and Awakening

Tajdid (Renewal), Islah (Reform), Sahwah/Nahdah (Awakening), and Ihya (Revival)
Islam had to have its own reformation, enlightenment and liberal consciousness.
It is a process of modernization of the Muslim world with an Islamic orientation to design the scheme of modernization by conforming to Islamic norms.
The needed reform of Muslim thinking and, it will be a reform from within, not one imposed from outside.

Characteristics of the 21st Century

1. Globalization
Shortens geographic distances
Eased human travel through faster means of communication
Vast and free dissemination of information
Changes of lifestyle
2. Competition
3. Inequality:
The richest 1% owned 48% of global wealth, leaving just 52% to be shared between the other 99% of adults on the planet.
In 2010, the richest 80 people in the world had a net wealth of $1.3tn. By 2014, $1.9tn; an increase of $600bn in just 4 years.
Speculation represented about 99.2% of the activities of our equity market system, with capital formation accounting for 0.8%.

World Development Indicators

More than 76% of the global R&D expenditures is spent by developed countries, 31.7% (USA), 23.2% (EU), and 10.9% (Japan).
The OIC countries account for only 2.1% of the world total Gross Domestic Expenditures on R&D (GERD), or 8.8% of the total GERD of developing countries.
Israel (4.39%), Finland (3.78%) and Korea (3.74%) are the top countries in terms of allocating resources for R&D. Top countries in OIC are Tunisia (1.1%), Malaysia (1.07%) and Turkey (0.84%). The Muslim world spend only 0.5% on R&D while the non Muslim world spend 5% on R&D.
The Muslim world spends less than 4% of their GDP on education.

World Governance Indicators

Indicators. 1) voice and accountability 2) political instability and absence of violence; 3) government effectiveness: 4) regulatory quality; 5) rule of law; and 6) control of corruption.
While developed countries outperform developing countries in all categories, other developing countries also do comparably better than OIC countries.
In none of the categories, OIC countries as a group attain a positive score.
Voice and accountability and political stability categories are the weakest categories for OIC countries.

Democracy Index

Freedom House’s annual survey of political rights and civil liberties
4 Muslim countries are free: open political competition, a climate of respect for civil liberties, significant independent civic life, and independent media.
14 are partly free: limited respect for political rights and civil liberties.
9 are not free: basic political rights are absent, and basic civil liberties are widely and systematically denied.
The Index of Election World: 13 Countries have democracy and 44 do not. Of these 44 countries: pseudo democracy, absolute monarchy, and dictatorship.

World University Ranking

The Times Higher Education World University Ranking
Only 9 are in Muslim world.
The Top 100 Universities in the World–No Muslim University Ranked
QS World Ranking
Only 20 are in Muslim world.
No Muslim University Ranked at the top 100 universities

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)

Among the 65 countries surveyed in the study, 5 of the 10 worst performers on the overall reading scale are the OIC member countries.
Turkey as the best performing OIC country occupies only the 44th position.
More than 30% of Malian youths aged 15–19 yrs who completed 6 years of schooling could not read a simple sentence.
In Pakistan, tests of grade 3 children found that only half could answer very basic multiplication questions

Corruption Perceptions Index

Transparency International: 177 countries.
Ranges from 10 (Least Corrupt) and O (Most Corrupt).
8 Muslim majority countries were among the 10 most corrupt nations. 
Only 6 Muslim countries are above the borderline.
Israel scored a 61 on the index and ranked 36th least corrupt.

The Global Competitiveness Index

The index covers 114 indicators under 12 pillars namely “institutions, infrastructure, macroeconomic environment, health and primary education, higher education and training, goods market efficiency, labour market efficiency, financial market development, technological readiness, market size, business sophistication and innovation”
Average GCI score of 3.90 in 2013, as compared to the rest of the world 4.2 and developed countries 5.0.
Only Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and Brunei scores above 5.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

The total patent applications in OIC countries reached almost 60,000; account for only 0.6% of total applications filled in the world.
Countries with higher number of patent applications attained better positions in global competitiveness rankings.
USA, Japan, China, and Republic of Korea accounted for almost 70% (7 million patent applications)

Logistics Performance Index (LPI)

45% of the OIC member countries had poor logistics performance with score below 2.47.
Malaysia (3.59) and Somalia (1.77) were the two OIC member countries with the highest and lowest logistics performance index values.
In contrast, 85% of the developed countries are considered to be logistics friendly with scores above 3.34.
Transportation infrastructure in the OIC countries is incompetent and the transportation system as a whole offers poor connectivity.

OIC Economic Outlook

The total GDP of the group of the OIC countries (1.5 billion population and 22% of the world population) is $9.8 trillion representing only 11% share in the world total GDP.
The number of unemployed around the world is estimated to have reached 201.8 million in 2013. Youth unemployment in OIC countries estimated at 15.6%.
3 out of every 4 US dollars of intra-OIC exports come from only ten countries. 4/5 of OIC exports and imports come from only ten countries representing only 9% of global exports.
The average OIC per capita income was US$3,600 while the average of the rest of the developing world was about US$5,600.
The OIC GDP of US$3.2 while the US, US$13.9 trillion. The entire Islamic world’s GDP is only 23% of that of the United States.

An Economic Islamicity Index

Measuring 208 countries’ adherence to Islamic Economic principles using as proxies 113 measurable variables.
1) Economic opportunity and economic freedom; 2) Justice in property rights and the sanctity of contracts ; 3) Better treatment of workers 4) Higher education expenditures 5) Poverty eradication 6) Distribution of wealth and income 7) Better social infrastructure 8) Higher savings and investment 9) Higher moral standard, honesty and trust 10) Financial System: risk sharing and the abolition of interest 12) Higher trade/GDP, higher foreign aid/GDP and higher degree of environmental preservation.
Non- Islamic, rich and developed, countries are performing well under principles embraced by Islam.
The highest ranked Islamic country is Malaysia (33), followed in order by Kuwait (42), Kazakhstan (54), Brunei (55), Bahrain (61) and (64).

ICT Use in OIC Countries

World Bank WDI:
With respect to mobile cellular subscriptions and internet use, OIC countries are performing fairly well. Some OIC countries show even better performance than developed countries.
More than 85% of people in Qatar, Bahrain and UAE have internet access.
Google’s report:
Pakistan tops the list of most porn-searching countries and leads the way in porn searches for animals like pigs, donkeys, dogs, cats and snakes.
Six of the top eight porn-searching countries were Muslim states. The country at number two in the list was Egypt, while Iran, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Turkey came in at numbers four, five, seven and eight, respectively.
Note: The sale of pornographic material has been banned in nearly every Arab country except Lebanon and Turkey.

The Need for Genuine, Balanced and Integrated Reforms

Moral and Spiritual Reforms: Moral and spiritual upbringing
Intellectual and Ideological Reforms: Re-understanding of the original vision and Reaffirmation of the ummah’s mission
Educational Reform: Promotion of education and character building
Political Reform: freedom of expression, an honest judiciary, equality, and accountability
Socio-economic Reform: Justice and development, mobilization of material, economic and technological resources and alleviation of poverty
Institutional Reform: Family, religious institution, civil society and etc.

Framework for Reform

“The strength of the sovereign (al-mulk) does not become consumed except by implementation of the Shari’ah;
The Shari’ah cannot be implemented except by a sovereign (al-mulk);
The sovereign cannot gain strength except through the people (al-rijal);
The people cannot be sustained except by wealth (al-mal);
Wealth cannot be acquired except through development (al-‘imarah);
Development cannot be attained except through justice (al- ‘adl); Justice is the criterion (al-mizan) by which God will evaluate mankind; and
The sovereign is charged with the responsibility of actualising justice”

Operational Framework for Reform

Spirituality: Spiritual consciousness and development.
Reformism: the reform of the Muslim society through the improvement of the performance of the social institutions such as the family, religious and educational institutions, etc. 
Activism: social and political awakening, seeking transformation of the existing Muslim societies into truly Islamic societies (khairu ummah).
Intellectualism: Intellectual movement, promotion of Islamic thought and Islamic outlook of life through advancement of knowledge in all modern fields of physical and social sciences. 

Challenge for the Future

Imbalanced reform : The present-day reform movements’ focus on politics, means and tools are not but a mere attempt at escaping from confronting the reality.
Pseudo reform: Violence, terrorism, mystical, absence of spirituality
Advancement of knowledge and technology: Science will shape our daily lives and lifestyle. Eg. Computer, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Nanotechnology, Energy, Space travel, wealth and humanity.
The Muslim world could not regain its position as the leading civilization if it had crumbling moral and scientific bases.

The Key to Future- Wisdom (Hikmah)

“Call towards the way of Lord with wisdom, friendly admonition and convincing argument” (16:125)
A total insight and having sound judgment concerning a matter or situation through understanding cause and effect phenomena
Most precious commodity in modern society. Knowledge, rationality and flexibility. New thinking based on current realities
Immanuel Kant: “Science is organized knowledge and wisdom is organized life”.

To download my presentation, click here Islamic Revivalism in the 21st Century: Myth or Reality


International Youth Gathering IYG 2015 (28)