The Arab Spring revolutions that have so far seen the toppling of three of the Maghreb’s most intransigent dictators caught spark in Tunisia and it appears the country is about to trigger another revolution in the region: Islamic finance.
A poll released by the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center last Friday shows that the majority of Tunisians, 61% feel that Shari’ah should be a source of legislation, but not the only one.
The poll was a follow-up to the October 24 ballot in which Tunisians voted for a constituent assembly that will be responsible for writing the new national constitution and determine what role Shari’ah will play.
“I would not assume that finance and national law are identical, but this data shows a strong receptivity to IF at least in concept,” Dalia Mogahed [pictured], director and senior analyst, Abu Dhabi Gallup Center told The Islamic Globe.
The Gallup survey interviewed 1,026 Tunisian adults, aged 15 and older face-to-face.
In the Tunisian general election, held in October, the Islamist party Ennahd came to power, and it has already made favorable noises with regards to Islamic finance.
Earlier on in July, the Tunisian interim finance minister, Jelloul Ayed, told a conference on Islamic finance that the government was preparing new laws to regulate the sector, including creation of a sovereign wealth fund called the ‘Future Generations Fund’ that will use Shari’ah compliant investments.
In Tunisia like the rest of North Africa, Islamic finance has never caught on, partly through an orchestrated campaign of suppression from the regimes in power. With these regimes now removed in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt the doorway has been left ajar to Islamic bankers.
Tunisia is ranked 23rd in world rankings for Shari’ah-compliant assets, with $800m in total assets, according to a number of sources.
The Africa Development Bank (AfDB) claims Islamic banking has never kicked off in Tunisia and its neighbors because of a lack of understanding by the general population and a lack of support from the government. “In Tunisia there is no complete Islamic banking law with regards to requirements relative to the approval of Islamic banks,” it reported.
Tunisia is constructing a Bahrain-like financial hub in the Raoued area of Tunis that will be the first offshore financial and banking centre in North Africa and if Islamic banking takes root anywhere in the Maghreb, it’s likely to take off here first.
source: The Islamic Globe