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Durham University plans new centre of Is...

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Durham University plans new centre of Islamic finance

Country/Region: United Kingdom, Europe

Durham University is planning to open a new doctoral training centre for Islamic finance and business.

The launch of the Durham Centre of Islamic Economics and Finance will build on the popularity of the Durham Islamic Finance Summer School, which began this month, and will increase the prominence of Islamic studies at the University.

Professor Rob Dixon, Dean of Durham Business School, said:

Due to such exciting and dynamic developments in the Islamic financial and banking sector, it is important that financiers and bankers who are working in the field, or who wish to enter the Islamic financial market, are aware of the principles, operations, techniques and mechanism of Islamic finance and financial products as well as the dynamics of Islamic financial and capital markets.

Al-Qasimi Building (School of Government and International Affairs) at Durham University, funded by the ruler of Sharjah.
© Gordon Griffiths CC BY-SA 2.0

Durham has been a leader of research in Islamic finance for over 25 years. According to The Centre for Social Cohesion (A Degree of Influence), Durham University received a donation of £2.25 million in 1999 from Sultan bin Mohammed al-Qasimi, the unelected ruler of Sharjah, an emirate that enforces a strict interpretation of sharia. His donation was used by Durham, where the present ruler of Sharjah completed his first degree, to construct a new building for the Institute of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies (IMEIS), which opened in 2003. A further unspecified donation was made to the University in 2008 to establish the “Sharjah Chair”. This position is held by Professor Habib Ahmed in the School of Government and International Affairs, which is responsible for the development of the new centre together with the University’s Durham Business School. The money for this chair is endowed by al-Qasimi, and the post holder is “expected to focus on the implications of Sharia for commercial and financial contracts”.

The Independent revealed in March this year that the University had controversially been paid more than £700,000 in research grants from Middle East sources, including £11,000 from the Iranian government. The Durham donations were uncovered by the Conservative MP for Harlow, Robert Halfon, who raised concerns over the University’s links with the country. In 2009, Durham entered into a “memorandum of understanding” with the Iranian government’s Ministry of Science, Research and Technology. The official links called for the exchange of faculty members and experts, joint research projects, activities and experiences, conferences, scientific meetings, educational workshops and joint book projects. Dr. Colin Turner, University of Durham, Member of the Centre for Iranian Studies said,

Iranian money comes with strings attached as we have found to our chagrin.

And in April this year, a local newspaper reported that Durham University is to receive £2.5m from Kuwait’s prime minister, Sheikh Nasser, to fund research by its Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies department.

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