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Symposium Will Explore Worldwide Challenges Facing Islamic Banking

Berkeley Journal of Middle Eastern & Islamic Law symposium

By Andrew Cohen

Legal, economic, and religious experts from across the world will converge upon Berkeley Law April 9 for a daylong symposium on Islamic Finance. Hosted by the Berkeley Journal of Middle Eastern & Islamic Law (BJMEIL), the forum will explore Shari’ah-compliant finance and current challenges facing Islamic banking both within the United States and internationally.

Speakers include New York State Senator Kevin Parker, who has introduced legislation to create an alternative, Sharia’a-compliant bond market in his state; Shaikh Muddassir Siddiqui, partner at SNR Denton’s Dubai office and former religious advisor to the Saudi-based Islamic Development Bank; and Dr. Karen Hunt-Ahmed, president of the Chicago Islamic Microfinance Project and an assistant professor of finance at DePaul.

Panelists will address Islamic mortgage financing, limitations on capital business structure, and the potential to use micro-finance to alleviate poverty. They also plan to discuss Islamic banking’s grassroots development and regulatory challenges within the U.S., and how the industry conforms to Islamic ethics.

“Berkeley Law is quickly emerging as a hub for studying how different legal regimes govern increasingly globalized financial markets and how they interact with each other,” said Mohammad Tajsar, BJMEIL’s editor-in-chief. “The administration has been very supportive in our push to make this a leading institution for studying Islamic finance.”
Arshad Ahmed and Abrar Hussain—partners at Kirkland & Ellis’ San Francisco office—will serve as hosts of the symposium. The agenda calls for scholars, practitioners, elected officials, religious leaders, and students to tackle how contemporary trends in Islamic finance comport with classical notions of justice, morality, and economic equity in Islam.

According to LL.M. student Samir Safar-Aly ’11, BJMEIL’s senior symposium editor, the forum will seek to connect American developments in finance with those in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

“We’ve worked for the past six months to secure an exciting array of contributors from as far as the UK, Qatar, Dubai, and Iran,” Safar-Aly said. “Berkeley Law’s reputation in Islamic finance has allowed us to host the biggest names in the field, and to have a rigorous and frank dialogue about its role in the global marketplace.”

Registration is free for UC Berkeley students and faculty, and $25 for the general public. Those interested in the symposium, to be held in Room 105 at the law school, can register here.