The month of January started out as uneventful and the rest of 2011 seemed confined to the same fate… clearly the demonstrations, protests and clashes that have engulfed the Middle East since then have proven otherwise. Very few could have foreseen the depth of this change (which is still unfolding) – with a substantial impact on the socio-political landscape of the region. Even more difficult to predict the breadth of this change – simultaneously across various countries and different political systems.
What this means to the region (and to Islamic finance) is near-impossible to predict. With such a complex landscape and an ambiguous outlook it is best to get back to basics. During this time it can be difficult to make sense of what we see, hear and read but this can be a time to renew our convictions and remind ourselves of our ideals.
Hence I find myself pondering: what draws us to Islamic finance, what fuels that interest in the concept and in the people around this industry? Unfortunately for the reader this has rekindled several anecdotes…
In the beginning…
My introduction to Islamic finance can be traced back to research conducted several years ago on Islamic investment funds. There was an emphasis on making the scope of the research global so special interest went into markets that, in my view at least, had been sidelined or ignored. This exploration included countries such as Pakistan, Morocco, Indonesia, Canada, South Africa and Egypt (just to name a few).
In fact it seems I hold the rather dubious honor of being the first person to write a comprehensive analysis of Islamic funds in some of these countries (specifically Indonesia, Pakistan and Egypt). This analysis can still be found in the form of articles published with the likes of Islamic Finance News, Eureka hedge and elsewhere. ‘Dubious’ because it highlights the inadequate attention that the industry service providers have given to these markets. Witnessing such an imbalance is a strong reminder of how much we should cherish views that are objective, balanced, and faithful to that long-lost art of common sense.
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Article reproduced with permission of Opalesque Islamic Finance Intellligence.