U.S. Treasury Hosts Islamic Finance Seminar

The Harvard Islamic Finance Information Program (HIFIP) held an “Islamic Finance 101” seminar in Washington on April 26 at the invitation of the U.S. Treasury Department...

The Harvard Islamic Finance Information Program (HIFIP) held an “Islamic Finance 101” seminar in Washington on April 26 at the invitation of the U.S. Treasury Department. This is one outcome of the department’s participation in the Fifth Harvard University Forum on Islamic Finance, held April 6-7 at Harvard. Sponsored by the HIFIP and the Harvard Islamic Society (HIS), the seminar addressed “Islamic Finance: Dynamics and Development.”

The forum, the first of its kind held in the U.S. in over 2 years, was designed to meet the increasing interest in Islamic finance by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Increased awareness of the Islamic finance industry, coupled with a widespread desire to better understand Middle Eastern financial systems, made this year’s forum the best attended ever, said HIFIP director Dr. Nazim Ali.

Ahmad Mohamed Ali, president of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), delivered the keynote address: “The Emerging Islamic Financial Architecture: The Way Ahead.” He detailed his bank’s measures to strengthen the international islamic financial architecture, such as establishing the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI), the Islamic Financial Services Organization (IFSO), an International Islamic financial market, and an Islamic rating agency. Bahrain Monetary Agency (BMA) governor Ahmed Bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa discussed the progress of Islamic banking and finance in his country.

The forum was attended by over 350 people, ranging from senior executives in Islamic financial institutions to undergraduate students in Islamic banking and finance. Among them were Frank Vogel, adjunct professor and director of Islamic Legal Studies Program at Harvard Law School, who spoke on “Ijtihad in Islamic Finance;” Dr. M. Nejatullah Siddiqi, president of the International Association for Islamic Economics, a visiting Fellow at UCLA and a Faisal Prize winner; Monzer Kahf, a former ISNA finance director and former IDB research economist; Dr. Mahmoud El-Gamal of Rice University; and Tariq Hassan, advisor to the finance minister of Pakistan. Hassan discussed Pakistan’s efforts to abide by a Supreme Court decision to transform the banking system into a genuine Islamic financial system.