Two Islamic banks, Cham Bank and Syria International Islamic Bank, launched their services to the public in Syria in 2007, and more banks are set to start operating this year, John Dagge reports in The Middle East magazine (March).
Islamic banking started to blossom in the 1970s and has been enjoying wider recognition in recent years: even a number of Western banks have started sharia-compliant funds. Around 300 Islamic banks operate in 25 countries. Islamic finance is estimated to manage around $500 billion, Asma Hanif writes in an article published by Religioscope (March 18).
Private banks started operating in Syria in 2004 and have rapidly expanded; Islamic banks are part of that trend. In the long-run, Islamic banks hope to attract up to 50 percent of the Syrian market. Such a development could be an indicator of growing tendencies to identify with Islamic values. However, Dagge notes, Islamic banking faces challenges too, one of them being finding qualified staff.
Islamic banks have approached local universities to encourage them to introduce courses on sharia-compliant finance. In addition, a higher cost is often associated with Islamic banking, and some observers wonder if customers will be willing to pay a premium for the service.
(The Middle East, IC Publications, Coldbath Sq., London, E1CR 4LQ, U.K.)