Muslim entrepreneurs need access to Sharia-friendly financial products

 

MUSLIM ENTREPRENEURS in Ireland need access to Sharia-compliant financial products to develop their businesses, a conference in Dublin heard yesterday.

According to research carried out by Thomas Cooney, academic director of DIT Institute for Minority Entrepreneurship, some 76 per cent of Muslim business people in Ireland believe securing finance is their biggest challenge and 90 per cent said there is a need for Islamic law compliant financial products.

The first ever Muslim Entrepreneurship in Ireland conference, held in the Dublin Institute of Technology, was organised by the college’s Institute for Minority Entrepreneurship in partnership with the US embassy.

The embassy supported the conference as part of President Barack Obama’s initiative to deepen ties between the US and Muslim communities around the world.

There are approximately 45,000 Muslims in Ireland and Islam is the third largest religion claimed on census returns.

Opening the event, Imam Hussein Halawa, of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland, spoke of the Muslim culture of ethics in business.

He emphasised the values of truthfulness, honesty and openness and reminded the almost 100 participants at the conference that usury, the paying or charging of interest on loans, was forbidden.

“The Islamic objective is to avoid all transactions leading to disharmony among people,” he said.

US ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney congratulated the organisers and said the US and Irish governments were “solid partners” in Mr Obama’s initiative. He also presented a copy of Mr Obama’s second book, The Audacity of Hope, to the imam.

Keynote speaker Tayyibah Taylor, founder of American Muslim women’s magazine Azizah, said business was not just a mechanism for creating wealth, it was a form of worship.

Ms Taylor described herself as an accidental and initially reluctant entrepreneur who in trying to give a voice to Muslim women, had become a business woman.

She said Islam was not just a religion, it was a way of life and it affected how business people behaved.

“If you would feel uncomfortable about having the activity you are doing spread across the front page of a newspaper, you shouldn’t do it,” she said.

In a message to women entrepreneurs in Ireland, Ms Taylor said it was important they realised developing a business takes a lot of strength.

“You are going to come up against a lot of obstacles, part of which is gender injustice, but that is not a reason to short circuit your dreams,” she said.

“I think it is very important for us, once we have a dream and a vision of what we want to create, to go for it.”

Mr Cooney’s research, which he presented at the conference, also found almost half of Muslim entrepreneurs in Ireland were working in food or retailing and were primarily targeting their own communities.

That market was too small to be sustainable, he said, and Muslim entrepreneurs needed to target the general population.

KEY FINDINGS MUSLIM ENTREPRENEURSHIP

48 per cent are sole owners.

68 per cent of businesses are less than four years old.

74 per cent employ zero or less than five people.

46 per cent are either in food or retailing.

52 per cent serve market within 30kms (18 miles).

42 per cent have turnover of less than €50,000, with 71 per cent less than €100,000.

78 per cent did not previously own a firm.

76 per cent said securing finance is the biggest challenge.

48 per cent said obtaining support from enterprise agencies was a challenge.

Lack of business contacts was also seen as significant challenge.

Largest source of finance is “own savings” and “family and friends”.

90 per cent said there is a need for Sharia-law compliant financial products.

53 per cent held a business management qualification.

63 per cent had prior managerial experience.

35 per cent experienced discrimination from customers.