H Abdur Raqeeb, General Secretary of Indian Center for Islamic Finance (ICIF), New Delhi talks about Islamic banking and business in India, in an interview with SM Fasiullah. Being a promoter of interest-free banking for over a decade in the country, Raqeeb recalls milestones ICIF have achieved so far.
What are activities your institution is currently involved in?
ICIF has been creating awareness about Islamic banking and finance, its relevance and need in our country since its inception in 2008. For Islamic finance and banking to happen in India, our institution considers following important points to be focused on:
a) Creating awareness in the public about the concept of Islamic finance among Indians both Muslims and Non-Muslims
b) Regulatory amendments
c) Political influence
For this purpose, the institution has been participating/conducting seminars and symposia, meeting regulators, political parties and personalities, and also involving in media interactions.
How people are reacting to the concepts of Islamic banking and finance?
So far we have seen tremendously positive response from intellectual strata of the society, while general public too showed interest in this concept. At several different occasions, we met and convinced politicians, statesmen, economists, scholars and many government officials about the concept of interest-free banking, and how it can be incorporated in the Indian system. ICIF delegation met with Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Deputy Governors particularly Anand Sinha, Finance Minister, Minister of Minority Affairs, Chairperson of National Commission for Minorities, Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission.
Recently, we met Dr Raghuram Rajan, Chief Economic Adviser to the Finance Minister, who had earlier recommended interest-free finance to be introduced in the banking sector as the Chairman of the high-level committee on Financial Sector Reforms of the Planning Commission in 2008.
Is it relevant to Indian society? Is there any scope for its inclusion?
Several secular modern industrialized countries such Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, France, and the UK have already accommodated Islamic finance and banking along with conventional banking and allowed a level playing field.
India has a substantial population of Muslims and marginalized sections such as small farmer, petty traders and workers who are outside the financial segment. We believe that the participatory, interest-free Islamic banking can be suitable for their inclusion.
Dr MS Swaminathan, the father of Green Revolution in India, has endorsed this when he said that Islamic banking with 0% interest can be a solution for Vidharba farmer suicide crisis. Justice Krishna Iyer too noted that Islamic finance has proven successful in poverty alleviation and promoting sustainable growth in many nations. He also added that Islamic finance is relevant in India where 20 million people are starving.
When it comes to its inclusion in our existing system, let me tell you that there are multiple legal provisions that allow interest free banking.
What your institution has to offer for students aspiring for Islamic finance and banking related courses?
We have introduced the concepts of Islamic banking and business during various conferences and seminars, including in educational institutions like Benaras Hindu University, Gujarat National Law University, BSA University Chennai, AMU, Jamia Millia Islamic, Jamal Mohamed College, and New College of Management in Chennai.
Anyone who is interested in these concepts can get in touch with our institution for guidance and counselling, or visit our website. They can also approach any of us personally – Dr Nejatullah Siddiqui, Dr Waqar Anwar, Dr Shariq Nisar, Mr. M H Khatkhatay, and me.
Prof. Vishwas Vyas, who is pursuing PhD on the topic ‘Critical Analysis of Interest Free Banking in India’, expressed that ICIF’s website was useful for his research.
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