A French business school launched a degree in Islamic finance on Wednesday January 21, 2009, as more European Muslims seek careers in a fast-growing sector run under the precepts of Sharia law.
Islamic banks avoid business that could be considered ‘riba’ – usually translated as ‘usury’ – and will not invest in firms that produce products seen by Muslims as ‘haram’ or forbidden, such as pork or alcohol.
Driven by the explosion in financial services in the energy-rich Gulf monarchies, Islamic banking has become a fast-growing section of the market, but in Europe has so far been dominated by London-based institutions.
Strasbourg University’s School of Management has now recruited 36 students from France, Algeria, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Tunisia to France’s first 11-month postgraduate masters-level course in the subject.
‘Financial institutions and regulatory authorities are faced with more and more demand from new economic actors that have ethical and religious concerns when seeking finance and investment,’ the school said.
Islamic bankers avoid finance based on the charging of interest, promote investments consistent with the laws and ethics of Islam and seek to share risk and profit among partners in a way that does not resemble gambling.
For example, an Islamic bank would not lend a would-be homeowner a mortgage and charge him interest, but could buy him the home, give it to him and allow him to repay the sum in installments with a fixed profit margin.
‘It’s another way of investing, another way of acquiring property. We prefer to avoid risky ventures,’ explained Ibrahim Zeyyad Cekici, a research fellow at the Strasbourg school.