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Islamic Finance Budding Slowly in Russia

Published: June 30, 2014 (Issue # 1817)



  • The Qolşärif Mosque in Kazan, the republic of Tatarstan.
    Photo: Briandeadly / Flickr

There are at least 10 million Muslims in Russia, but only four public organizations where they can invest and borrow in compliance with the Quran.

Islamic finance is a fast-growing field worldwide, and proponents say it offers both ethical and practical benefits to the faithful and non-Muslims alike. Russia, however, lags behind in the industry, analysts and Russian Islamic financiers interviewed by The Moscow Times agreed.

Russian Muslims are slow to change their financial habits, while nonbelievers are plagued by a deep-rooted distrust of Islam — as are, to some extent, the financial authorities, who are in no hurry to adapt economic legislation to facilitate Islamic banking, analysts said.

"The religious renaissance that spans all creeds in Russia does not mean people rush out to seek services that comply with their religion," said Andrei Juravliov, a leading expert on Islamic finance who teaches at Moscow State University.

Still, an Islamic finance industry has been budding over the past decade in Russia, and analysts and players show cautious optimism about its prospects.

"The niche is small, but the demand is better than, say, seven years ago," said Rashid Nizameyev, the head of finance house Amal, which is one of those four venues to provide Islamic banking services.

"There are more believers now … though only a fraction try to actually live by their religion's customs," said Nizameyev, whose organization is based in Russia's predominantly Muslim republic of Tatarstan.

No Money From Money

The core tenet of Islamic banking is a ban on riba, or interest, and loaning money for profit. The ban comes straight from the Prophet Muhammad, and is spelled out in the Quran.

On the face of it, such a ban should eliminate any possibility of sharia-compliant banking — but this is not actually the case.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBA’s ongoing “Breakfast with the Director” series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at “Sounds of the Universe,” a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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