FaithWorld

Libyan Muslim leaders urge military to stop shooting protesters

benghazi

(Benghazi port, 13 March 2009/Dennixo)

The bloody crackdown on protesters in Libya has prompted about 50 Libyan Muslim religious leaders to issue an appeal to the security forces as Muslims to stop the killing or face the wrath of God.

Dozens of protesters were killed in clashes with Libyan security forces in the eastern city of Benghazi on Saturday, an eyewitness told Reuters, in the worst unrest in Muammar Gaddafi’s four decades in power. Snipers fired at protesters from a compound to which they had withdrawn, said the resident, who did not want to be named.

“Dozens were killed … not 15, dozens. We are in the midst of a massacre here,” the eyewitness resident in Benghazi said. Human Rights Watch said earlier that 84 people had been killed over the past three days in a fierce security crackdown mounted in response to anti-government protests that sought to emulate uprisings in neighbouring Egypt and Tunisia.

The Libyan Muslim leaders, who could not give their names for security reasons, sent an appeal to Reuters through a reliable source. “This is an urgent appeal from religious scholars (faqihs and Sufi sheikhs), intellectuals, and clan elders from Tripoli, Bani Walid, Zintan, Jadu, Msalata, Misrata, Zawiah, and other towns and villages of the western area of our beloved Libya to all of humanity, to all men and women of good will,” said the appeal. “The Libyan regime has been firing live ammunition at peaceful demonstrators who have been simply asking for their divinely endowed and internationally recognised human rights.

The appeal said security forces were firing automatic weapons on large crowds of protesters near the central barracks and security headquarters in Benghazi, and then added:

Top Islamic finance scholars oppose bid to improve corporate governance

islamic bankTwo of the Gulf’s top Islamic finance scholars spoke out against efforts to reduce the number of boards they and their peers are allowed to sit on, challenging industry attempts to improve corporate governance. Bankers in the emerging $1 trillion Islamic finance industry say the concentration of hundreds of board positions in the hands of a few sharia scholars leads to conflicts of interest and hampers appropriate supervision. (Photo: Islamic bank ATM machines in Dubai, January 28, 2008/Jumana El Heloueh)

Bahrain-based industry body AAOIFI is drafting rules to regulate scholars’ shareholdings and the number of sharia supervisory boards a single scholar can sit on. “There is no need to limit the number of boards,” Sheikh Nizam Yaquby, one of the most revered Islamic finance scholars in the Gulf Arab region, told a conference in Manama. He sits on several dozen sharia supervisory boards.

He said there was no similar criticism of other groups such as lawyers or accounting firms working for several banks: “Why should (sharia scholars) not be treated like other professionals in the field?”

Islamic finance outsources scholars’ supervision to grow

finance ammanBankers in Islamic finance are increasingly outsourcing sharia supervision due to a lack of scholars in the industry, but critics say this is making the sector even less transparent and slowing its development.

The $1 trillion industry rode a five-year oil boom until the 2008 property crash in the Gulf Arab region raised complaints that many of its investment instruments can be seen as mere copy-cats of conventional banking products, threatening the sector’s future growth. (Photo: Dealers at the Amman Stock Exchange on October 11, 2010/Ali Jarekji)

Critics say growth and product innovation is being further stifled by the limited number of top scholars available to join the sharia boards of Islamic banks, some sitting on up to 80 boards.

Short of talent, Islamic finance taps women scholars

malaysia islamic finance (Photo: Islamic Financial Centre booth at Malaysia’s Central Bank – High Level Conference 2009 in Kuala Lumpur February 10, 2009/Zainal Abd Halim)

When Malaysian Aida Othman signed up for the new law programme at the International Islamic University in Kuala Lumpur, she did not expect to become one the few women with their hands on the levers of the world’s $1 trillion Islamic finance sector.

Rising global demand for scholars who can advise firms on compliance with Islamic legal principles called sharia is behind the quiet and almost accidental way in which women are growing into a small but powerful force in a male-dominated business.

“There are not many women involved my job,” Aida, who manages the sharia advisory practice at Malaysia’s biggest law firm, told Reuters. “I’m glad to be able to show to young graduates and young scholars in my field if you’re interested enough there is a way into sharia advisory,” the 41-year-old, who went on to study at Cambridge and Harvard, said.

Dead Sea scrolls going digital on Internet

dead sea scrolls 1 (Photo: Sections of the Dead Sea scrolls at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, May 14, 2008/Baz Ratner)

Scholars and anyone with an Internet connection will be able to take a new look into the Biblical past through an online archive of high-resolution images of the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls.

Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), the custodian of the scrolls that shed light on the life of Jews and early Christians at the time of Jesus, said on Tuesday it was collaborating with Google’s research and development center in Israel to upload digitized images of the entire collection.

Advanced imaging technology will be installed in the IAA’s laboratories early next year and high-resolution images of each of the scrolls’ 30,000 fragments will be freely accessible on the Internet. The IAA conducted a pilot imaging project in 2008.

Islamic finance relies on too few of its scholars

saudi traderThe Islamic finance industry is not short of qualified sharia scholars to meet growing demand, but it relies too heavily on a handful of them, limiting growth potential and raising regulatory concerns, experts say.

Islamic finance experts have previously said the nearly $1 trillion industry is struggling to find scholars with the business acumen, technology and language skills necessary to help the sector evolve. (Photo: A trader at the Saudi Investment Bank in Riyadh, March 18, 2008/Fahad Shadeed)

But consultancy Funds@Work found that more than 300 scholars sit on the sharia boards of Islamic institutions. However, it said that just 20 of these scholars appear on 54 percent of such boards.

Islamic finance seems overwhelmed by tighter supervision of sharia advisers

islamic bankIslamic finance is toughening supervision of its powerful religious advisers as shareholders worldwide demand increasing accountability from directors, but key reforms may do little to boost independence and transparency.

Key to these challenges is the small number of scholars advising a growing number of banks on increasingly complex financing structures, raising issues such as transparency of rulings, independence of advisers and how to groom new scholars. (Photo: Dubai Islamic Bank in Dubai, September 28, 2010/Jumana El-Heloueh)

But varying sharia standards, different regulatory approaches and vast disparities in development across markets stand in the way of reforms to streamline and boost supervision, which are critical to growth.

Saudi royal order says only appointed clerics can issue public fatwas

saudi fatwasSaudi King Abdullah has ordered that public religious edicts, or public fatwas, be issued only by clerics he appoints, in the boldest measure the ageing monarch has taken to organise the religious field.

Timid efforts by the absolute monarchy to modernise the deeply conservative country have led to a profusion in fatwas from scholars and mosque imams in the country, who use the Internet to publicise them as they fight what they perceive as the westernisation of the country. (Photo: Saudi King Abdullah, 30 July 2010/Ali Jarekji)

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah gestures during his meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah at the Royal Palace in Amman July 30, 2010.

Islamic finance seeks young scholars to lead growth, improve products

islamic bankWith Islamic finance a $1 trillion industry globally and expected by ratings agency Moody’s to reach $5 trillion in time, students of sharia have more opportunities than ever before to take their skills beyond the mosque doors and into the boardroom.

Reflecting the change in times, many current scholars now prefer to call themselves sharia advisors or technicians to suggest that their duties are more professional rather than simply clerical. (Photo: Dubai Islamic Bank, January 28, 2008/Jumana El Heloueh)

Professionally, it can be a lucrative endeavor. Scholars working on Islamic finance deals are paid consulting fees, depending not only on the services provided but also the seniority and fame of the scholar.