Rushdi Siddiqui: Is the Islamic finance industry ready for social media?(0)
By Rushdi Siddiqui, co-founder and managing director of Azka Capital
Social marketing eliminates the middlemen, providing brands the unique opportunity to have a direct relationship with their customers. — Bryan Weiner.
Today, it seems Islamic finance is still stuck at a hard-copy of stage communication (faxes) when the financial world has moved on to Facebook, Twitter, blogging, etc.
Many Islamic financial institutions have Web sites, but how often is it updated beyond awards won? How many Islamic banks, takaful operators, Shariah consulting firms, industry bodies, etc, are on Facebook? Yet, the youth — its future clients — in many Muslim countries with Islamic finance are on Facebook.
What about the cross-sell of Islamic finance to non-Muslims as an ethical alternative? These potential customers are an important cluster of social media and they are continuously looking for offerings aligned with their values.
Several Islamic financial institutions have Twitter accounts, unsure how many of their (retail) clients are on Twitter. Do these institutions believe SMS, Internet and mobile banking is the “social media” connection to their clients?
Maybe the culture of social media is lacking in, say, the GCC. But we saw how effectively social media was utilised during the Arab Spring.
Is there a fear of technology among Islamic financial institutions? The fear of hackers stealing from customer accounts and identity theft? They have heard about horror stories on hacking from US- and EU-based banks with allegedly better (read, more expensive) firewalls.
Is there fear that social media connectivity will raise the level of transparency to conventional benchmarks standards and with accountability to follow? Put differently, will social media result in enhanced governance? It is not a bad thing in this post-credit crisis environment where companies are rewarded via a stable stock price and rave reviews for transparency and governance.
Is there fear that “bad news” concerning Islamic financial institutions will spread like wildfire if (deeply) connected to social media? It will spread anyway as news organisation coverage is supplemented by bloggers and tweeters in real time.
Is it a lack of resource issue in having, say, a “chief social media officer”? It would appear that Islamic financial institutions have not looked at public relations and outreach as an investment in their brand, but, rather, a cost of doing business.
Brand-building goes towards commitment to not only clients and staff, but long-term growth of the institution, including eventual cross-border expansion and future clients. Furthermore, during challenging market cycles, the message to the community, whose attention has become shorter, is the confidence inspiring “business as usual”.
The Thomson Reuters Islamic Finance Gateway, or IFG, may just provide a guidance for Islamic financial institutions on understanding about the benefits of social media connectivity. It comes down to market intelligence, and the market place is the best source of “knowledge that powers” market movements. The community connectivity function of the IFG comes down to insights by industry experts making sense of the information overload, communicating about important sign posts on the road ahead and allowing community to interface with experts on a secure platform.
At the behest of colleagues, I joined LinkedIn about a year ago to connect with like-minded colleagues globally to share ideas and articles. Outside of unsolicited endorsement of people I have connected with, but, not worked with, it has been a pleasant experience, especially reading leadership articles.
Furthermore, I started tweeting a few months ago, initially on Islamic finance and the halal industry, but have expanded to issues related to Muslims, Islam, Muslim countries, etc. It has been a fulfilling experience and I should have joined much earlier. Why?
1. Tweeting forces one to convey their message in 140 characters, becomes very important in today’s world of short-attention span and information overload. Islamic financial institutions should be able to convey thought leadership within these constraints.
2. Twitter brings news in real time from multiple eyes, hence, it’s a multiple “op-ed” of the market place on the subject matter. The raw news provides more colour than polished sound-bites.
3. Twitter has allowed me to follow the likes of global leaders like His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and his comments in real time. He first tweeted about Dubai being a hub for an Islamic economy a few months ago.
Shaikh Mohammed’s tweets, at the time of writing this, on the performance of UAE government standards should encourage Islamic financial institutions to engage and embrace the social media to not only connect, but also to report developments.
Rushdi Siddiqui is co-founder and managing director of Azka Capital, a private equity advisory firm focused on halal industry initiatives, and an advisor to Thomson Reuters on Islamic finance and the halal industry.
Rushdi Siddiqui: Forming your own opinion(0)
By Rushdi Siddiqu, Global Head of Islamic Finance at Thomson Reuters
APRIL 1 — “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.” — Thomas Jefferson
“Life is not a spectator sport. If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you’re wasting your life.” — Jackie Robinson
Everyone has an opinion; however, some people are shy to share. An interactive article, much like a survey, requiring readers’ opinions may actually encourage wider audience participation. For many of us, constructive comments about an online article actually provide more insights than the article itself.
Why is that when China, North Korea, Russia, Venezuela (under the late Hugo Chavez) made/make provocative comments about the US, the reaction from the Tea Party loyalists and Fox talk show hosts are not immediate and proportional, if at all, when compared to comments from stateless extremists like Al Qaeda?
Is it because, in the mind of the loyalists, these sovereignties are not trying to expand religion, and they can actually do economic and/or military harm to the US? What about election year politics?
Many of the Muslim countries are trying to diversify their economies from natural resources, commodities, conventional banking, basic manufacturing, typically 4-5 economic sector bias, to a knowledge based economy as part of 2020 and 2030 vision plans.
The knowledge pursuit implies linkage of educational budgets for clusters, technology parks, equity financing (venture capital and crowd funding), legal protections, mentoring, etc. One way of looking at the output would be the number of patents registered with the US Trade & Patent Office. Does Malaysia have the most patents from the OIC?
Why do selected Muslim countries with excessive surplus continue to purchase trophy assets in the US and western Europe, at times at top of the market, and not invest more of the money in the “national mission” of establishing and enabling an educational infrastructure for future generations?
I recently had an eye-opening conversation with the former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, where he articulated that education starts in the mother’s womb with appropriate nutrition, food and spiritual guidance! The Muslim world needs this type of thinking to close the “knowledge” approach gap with the developed world.
Why has the OIC, as a whole, not captured the imagination of emerging market investors like BRICS? Is it because, out of the 57 OIC states, 22 are least developed but only three are G-20, there is corruption, capital flight, brain drain, and a host of most of the world’s intra-country conflicts, etc? Thus, requiring a sub-OIC, like SAMI +3, Saudi Arabia, Ankara, Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Egypt? Who will promote such a clustering?
Why is it when celebrities like Mike Tyson or the late Michael Jackson allegedly “revert” to Islam, it spreads like wildfire on Muslim websites (with excitement)? Why is it when the UK wanted to issue a sovereign Sukuk (roughly and badly translated as an Islamic bond), the Islamic finance world spoke of it as a “badge of arrival” for the niche market? Do Muslims have an identity crisis and still mentally and/or are psychologically colonised by Western/conventional offerings?
Faith, finance, food and fashion
Islamic finance isn’t just about finance, but linked to faith, food, fashion, etc., hence, when will it or, rather, how will it step up and be the financial “lubricant” to these satellite-linked activities? Islamic finance needs to serve the economy, and not be positioned as the economy!
Should Ogilvy Noor, an Islamic branding consultancy, examine the merits of rebranding Islamic finance to Participation Finance, especially if the cross-sell to non-Islamic customers and countries is one of the KPI growth stories? Furthermore, how best to “educate” the anti-syariah movement, which attempts to link, without evidence, Islamic finance to terrorism financing?
Why Islamic finance, biased towards real estate financing, does not finance a real economy-linked movement like the halal food industry, as they are both mentioned in the same chapter of the Quran? The irony of the situation is a Muslim can consume the end product of certified halal food companies, like Malaysia-based Prima, but may not be able invest in the stock as it violates one of the financial ratios (too much conventional debt)!
Is the blame game spread to both halal (need to tell a better story of halal as an asset class) and Islamic finance (halal, asset backed, is ripe for Sukuk offering)?
Is food manufacturing considered a “sexy” or exciting industry compared to mega developments and information super corridors, etc.? Do people get excited about a food park or cows or chickens? Yet, everyone knows how important food security is to a country; hence, the disconnect.
Why is ethnic cuisine a great ambassador for a country? For example, in US, we have Italian, Chinese, Lebanese and Mexican food, Turkish delights, Pakistani biryani, Indian curry, Polish sausages, etc.
What Malaysian food/meal would be a good ambassador to the US? Would satay be a perfect food ambassador as the signature dish of Malaysia Airlines? How many Malaysian fast-food franchises exist in the US/UK?
Why is healthy food, vitamins, etc, expensive in Malaysia? This is one area, along with health club membership, the government should sunset subsidise until people feel the difference and understand the implications of health.
Why do Muslim countries not encourage local sport development by way of budgets, facilities and international coaches? Some of the countries offer “citizenship” for non-nationals to represent the country, and, even then a victory appears to be hollow.
For example, assume 25 per cent of the 1.8 billion Muslims are under 15 years old, there are Michael Jordans, Lebron Jameses, Tiger Woodses, David Beckhams, etc, in the Muslim world, and they would be wonderful ambassadors and role models for the country and its youth.
Who has a greater contribution to society, one who does not wear the “veil” and provides much charitable contributions, including the kindness of a smile, or the taker of charity, who passes judgment?
The highlight of the Proud to Be Human moment for 2012 had to be the recovery of Malala Yousufzai, the brave young Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban for promoting girls’ education. Her actions should earn a Nobel Peace Prize for the courage of a “special ops soldier”.
The Nobel committee needs to send a strong signal about girls’ education by awarding her the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize for Courage and Contribution to Girls’ Education in Emerging Markets.
“Too often we… enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” — John F. Kennedy
So, what is your thoughtful opinion?
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.
Missing voice in Islamic finance industry: media(0)
As part of the on-going dialogue with Muslim entrepreneurs linked to Islamic finance and Halal industry, today’s interview is about media coverage of Islamic finance.
Meet Syaiful Naim bin Othman, founder/CEO of www.amilin.tv, and you see a man on a mission on connecting the masses to Islamic finance.
What was your motivation and objective to start this venture?
Media, much like food and clothing, is an important part of our everyday life. Through various mediums, radio, television, newspaper or the Internet, we are e-connected with a broad market place coming together based on common shared values.
The global financial media has made economics, finance, banking, capital markets as part of our daily lives, whether we ‘turn it on’ whilst eating breakfast or working out in the gym.
The world is now looking for growth markets and growth stories, and Islamic finance, OIC economy and Halal industry present compelling opportunities. However, the present approach to creating awareness, educating, addressing mis-perceptions and lifting the veil of mystery associated with this niche markets needs to be revisited.
Our mission is to provide the fastest and most comprehensive Islamic finance headlines and news of major events set to shape our business day ahead. For me, we need to put our house in order and the solution is Amilin TV. An online web TV, Amilin TV focuses on Islamic financial news, the OIC economy and the Halal industry.
We are the prime mover of Islamic finance news TV and we have the largest Islamic finance video repository on the Internet. To date, our hits for the Web TV include viewership from over 70 countries.
Do you think the media understands the importance of Islamic finance?
No, the story about Islamic finance is just not getting out, including majority of Muslims. Some think that Islamic finance is related to terrorist financial activity. Few think its just about prohibition against pork and interest. Others believe it’s just semantics combined with ‘smoke and mirrors.’
The industry has failed to educate and promote the ‘beauty’ of Islamic finance to the masses. Here, the media plays an important role, much like in conventional finance, in addressing information gaps, vacuums and dis-information.
From my point of view, we need to educate the media first. But, at Islamic finance events, media is ‘just’ a sponsor and not involved as panelists or even panel sessions on media.
The passive approach does not contribute to the dialogue, it’s a gatekeeper to its readers and viewers, hence, needs to be heard.
To attract more online subscribers what is the most important for Amilin TV?
We will launch our Islamic finance business talk show this year. It will be looked upon as a turning point for the Islamic finance industry to move to the next level.
It will provide the fastest and most comprehensive Islamic finance headlines and news of major events set to shape our business day ahead. Featuring analysis and breaking news on the Islamic financial market, our talk show will also broadcast global equity market reports presented in considerable banter between hosts and their guests.
Our target subscribers are affluent financial professionals from both the conventional and Islamic banking sectors.
What are your challenges and plans going forward?
When we first started a few years ago, we had many challenges for an on-line broadcasting entity. The financial industry is covered by the usual suspects, Thomson Reuters and Bloomberg, however, we have managed to find our target niche market. We have been recognised by the industry as the only online Islamic Finance news TV. If you Google Islamic finance TV, Amilin TV ranks number one and if you search for Islamic finance news, Amilin TV ranks number two. We are also a media partner and official web TV for international Islamic finance and Halal events happening in among others, Kuala Lumpur, Russia, Dubai, Doha, and Jakarta.
Our vision is to become the mainstream financial media. Currently we have our broadcast studio in Kuala Lumpur and plan to set up our next studio in Dubai soon.
His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has announced his vision and initiative for an ‘Islamic economy’. Any country aiming to become the global hub in Islamic economy needs this kind of business media as a marketing arm to promote and propagate their Islamic finance agenda to the world.
The writer is the Global Head of Islamic Finance and OIC Countries for Thomson Reuters. Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newpaper’s policy
Chance for Halal Industry to raise the bar(0)
By Rushdi Siddiqui & Tina Jamaluddin
A change agent must tell the truth to a benevolent dictator, religious hardliner, and compassionately connect with youth and have nots.
Breaking News: “Nestle removes beef pasta meals after finding horsemeat. Nestle, the world’s biggest food company, has removed beef pasta meals from shelves in Italy and Spain after tests revealed traces of horse DNA.” — BBC News on Feb 19, 2013.
The Chinese new year of the Snake, seems to have become the year of Horse (meat). The year, 2013, did not start on a positive note for meat loving consumers in Europe with the mid-January announcement about Irish food inspectors finding horsemeat in some beef burgers heading for the UK supermarket chains.
This was followed almost immediately by announcement from the UK, Sweden and France that up to 100% horsemeat was found in several brands of frozen food.
In tracing the origins of the abattoirs responsible for contaminating the supply chain, it leads investigators across France to Cyprus to Netherlands to Romania and Luxembourg. The concern was the contamination seemed not to be accidental, but, rather the work of criminal conspiracy.
The world’s largest food manufacturer, Nestle, with a large imprint in the halal market, admitted that two of their beef products produced out of their factory in Italy and Spain contained more than 1% horse DNA. Furthermore, the possible source of contaminant was a supplier in Germany, a sub-contractor owned by JBS, the world’s largest meat processing company.
How does this affect consumer confidence in accepting the authenticity and integrity of the attached label?
Now, the entire supply chain, from the proverbial “farm to fork” is somewhat compromised, possibly not from a food safety perspective, but from an ethical and business standpoint. Nestle and JBS are listed No 1 and No 6, respectively, on the list of world’s largest food companies (by sales), and for all their food safety systems and standards, they still find themselves embroiled in this unfolding scandal.
The food retailers across Europe, with PR machinery in place, have firmly distanced themselves from the actions of their guilty suppliers, and have been adamant that they were as shocked as their customers by the discovery. Furthermore, the EU health ministers were quick to point out that while mislabeling is ethically questionable, the horsemeat contamination is not a food safety or public health issue, even though the equine drug Phenylbutazone, or bute, used on horses is not allowed to enter the food chain as it could pose a health risk in humans.
This leads back to the bigger question: how confident are we, as food consumers that we have not been exposed? Where does the “buck of responsibility stop?” The fingers are pointing to those making the larger profit margins, major food retailers have to bear some of the responsibility. Furthermore, it would appear they are constantly squeezing the supply manufacturers to produce cheap products while improving their own bottom line.
While eating horsemeat may be considered taboo or even unethical or unsavory in some parts of the world, Muslims are not prohibited from eating horse and camel if the animal is slaughtered in accordance with strict Islamic practices. However, the worry for Muslim consumers, who readily eat non-certified halal meat products with the justification that “as long as it’s not pork”, is that during the same testing process, food inspectors have also discovered minute traces of pork DNA in some beef frozen foods.
For example, Waitrose’s brand of British meatballs showed they contained some pork. Even some Halal meat pies produced in the UK were found to have traces of porcine DNA. The word distressing is an understatement for Muslims relying on truth in labeling by the name brand companies!
The potential fallout could be massive and will shift the mindset of Muslim consumers worldwide who already face challenges of finding halal food products on supermarket shelves. While the contamination of pork DNA in meat products might not be deliberate, traces of pork DNA may be the result of ultra sensitive DNA testing, which can detect traces at minute levels and will be evident in factories that also produce pork-based products or get their raw materials from abattoirs that slaughter pigs.
The implications of such a scenario are crap shoot “roll the dice” (willing to chance it) versus capital equipment expenditure. Thus, going forward, this means that non-halal manufacturers, who produce halal products, will either have to have dedicated factories for halal products or they might consider dropping the product altogether.
Today, not one halal company controls the entire supply food chain. It is well-known and accepted that supply chains are long, challenging and complicated. Thus, given the scare of cross contamination and food safety issues, it is imperative that halal institutions and food manufacturers take up the challenge and convey to the public at large that their supply chains encompass the essence of halal.
There are two very important halal lessons to be learned from Islamic finance on (1) what not to do and (2) what to do during external financial shocks.
In both niche markets, Islamic finance as a subset of social-ethical movement (a subset set of conventional finance) and halal food as a subset of the “food industry” (although halal includes pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, logistics, etc), a “call to action” plan explaining the merits and value proposition is urgently required to address the external turbulence.
For the halal industry, the horsemeat fiasco is about the “trust and confidence” of the food supply chain being compromised. It is here that the halal industry can show the transparency and accountability of the food supply chain from “farm to fork.”
The halal industry has the opportunity to raise the transparency bar for not only itself, but, more importantly, for its conventional brethren.
Rushdi Siddiqui is global head, Islamic finance and OIC countries, Thomson Reuters and Tina Jamaluddin is ex-head of business and product development of PrimaBaguz Sdh Bhd.
Looking for halal alpha in Dubai(0)
By Rushdi Siddiqui, Global Head of Islamic Finance, Thomson Reuters
It is one of the legs of an Islamic economy for Dubai, as recently mentioned by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. It is a $640-billion (Dh2.35 trillion) niche market with greater reach and traction than Islamic finance for Muslims. It is also a consumer non-cyclical, linked to the real economy and asset-backed. Furthermore, companies such as Nestlé, Unilever, Cargill, Kraft and other Fortune 500 companies produce goods for this niche market.
We’re talking about the halal industry: from food and pharmaceuticals to cosmetics, logistics and more — $2.1 trillion in total, with the food sector comprising about a third.
According to a consultant study, “Consumer spending on food in the GCC is expected to reach $106 billion in the next five years … [and] Saudi Arabia and the UAE together account for around 75 per cent of the region’s total food retail market”.
Halal was in the Arab Spring countries long before Islamic finance, and they are now just talking about building enabling environment for sukuk. Here, an agriculture sukuk would have a more direct impact than general purpose sukuk.
Halal presence is a better indicator of Muslim purchasing power than the traction of Islamic finance in Western countries. “Halal has gone mainstream,” says Darhim Hashim, CEO of the International Halal Integrity Alliance. “There are now aisles — no longer shelves — in supermarkets such as Asda and Tesco, dedicated to halal products.”
Halal needs to move from the present conversation of certification and ingredients to an asset class. Thomson Reuters and Idealratings launched the world’s first halal food index, the Socially Acceptable Market Investments Halal Food Index, at the World Halal Forum in 2011. At the launch, there were 240 companies from 15 Muslim countries, including seven from the UAE, thus facilitating inward investing and intra-Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) investing.
Two points need to be addressed. Firstly, Muslims do not control the halal food supply chain (the OIC, overall, are net importers), especially at the important midstream, manufacturing and processing stages. Secondly, the present approach to food security by way of agriculture, food and land bank funds has yet to meet expectations.
There is a third way, beyond domestic growth and importing, that is less about securing food supply and more about controlling it. However, to control it, one has to know the farm to fork to finance supply chain, as well as traceability, leakages and the like.
Shaikh Mohammad’s announcement has reached the far corners of the food and finance world, and Dubai has the vision, will and means to address food security and build a global brand in the food industry, much like Emirates is for air transportation.
— The writer is Global Head, Islamic Finance & OIC Countries, Thomson Reuters
Chance for halal industry to raise the bar(0)
By Rushdi Siddiqui & Tina Jamaluddin
“Nestle removes beef pasta meals after finding horsemeat. Nestle, the world’s biggest food company, has removed beef pasta meals from shelves in Italy and Spain after tests revealed traces of horse DNA.” — BBC News on Feb 19, 2013.
The Chinese new year of the Snake, seems to have become the year of Horse (meat). The year, 2013, did not start on a positive note for meat loving consumers in Europe with the mid-January announcement about Irish food inspectors finding horsemeat in some beef burgers heading for the UK supermarket chains.
Crescentrating Plans Halal-Friendly Travel(0)
By Rushdi Siddiqui, Global Head Of Islamic Finance at Thomson Reuters
The “Muslim travellers” is an important segment in the travel industry, however, not many hotel chains or destinations haven taken a serious look at their needs. So, many travellers have to manage their requirements while travelling or stick to familiar holiday destinations.
Now the media is full of reports on Muslim Travel market, as there are a host of destinations, hotel chains, tour operators etc., all targeting the billions of dollars of these travellers.
Lessons from hiking for Islamic finance(0)
By Rushdi Siddiqui, Global Head of Islamic Finance at Thomson Reuters
Of all the sports I play — basketball, tennis, football, biking, running and hiking — hiking provides a number of lessons for Islamic finance and the halal industry.
The metaphor is applicable to many economic sectors, industries and companies, but more so in these two inter-related yet mutually ignored movements.
Shekra.com: Shariah-compliant crowd funding takes off(0)
By Rushdi Siddiqui, Global Head of islamic Finance at Thomson Reuters
It also an opportunity to attain the core ethical values of Shariah and the intended purposes of Islamic Finance “to do good” by contributing to socioeconomic development.
Rushdi Siddiqui: Why I decided to finally tweet(0)
February 04, 2013
FEB 4 — I never thought I would say that publicly, but the lesson learned is, “Never say never!”
“Never’s a hard call, isn’t it? Never-ish.” — Terry Venables
Tweeting: Reasons and dangers
First, I wanted to understand why people tweeted.
Because they have something of substance or importance to say? On hindsight, probably not, because hyper-connectivity updates make a minute ago seem historical!
Because they want to connect with “like-minded people?” On hindsight, some of those “minds” should be blocked!
Because they want a following? On hindsight, thank God for the ability to block, as this becomes an addiction for some!
Because they want to only follow, say, a famous athlete, movie star, etc?
Or that they just want to be part of a fad and then drop out when it fades?
Second, I wanted to know the “dangers” of tweeting.
That which has been tweeted cannot be deleted. Possibly retreated. But from a public relations 101 angle, that which cannot be deleted is a disaster for reputation management.
The 24/7 information download world we live in reminds us more often than not of our missteps and failures than it does our successes. Hence to say “be careful before touching send button” cannot be overemphasised.
The apology tweet cannot undo the damage done, case in point people like Rupert Murdoch and many athletes, politicians, business leaders and why even some spiritual leaders.
There is also the danger of pranks played on tweet accounts. Ones opened in your name or those hacking into your account to score a point or to make a statement for individual/group benefit. This has happened to political and spiritual leaders of late.
It’s interesting to note that politicians, like US President Barack Obama, have a team that tweets on their behalf. Why you ask? These are what you call an “impersonal tweet” driven by careful public relations management.
The tweet can bring “rain or sunshine” to the subject matter depending on prominence of the tweeter. For example, during a recent college football game, the sportscaster made remarks concerning the beauty of one of audience members, and she suddenly went from less than 10,000 followers to over 200,000 followers (including a superstar basketball player by the name of Lebron James). So tweets can create overnight fame or notoriety depending on which side of an issue one stands and supports, and the reaction one poses to responses.
There are the spam tweets, hence, the nuisance of time consuming blocking comes into the picture.
Third, and probably the most difficult question, what value will I bring into the tweeting wide world? I come from the realms of Islamic finance and halal hence, and, much like TV sitcom actors, we have generally encased ourselves in that narrow arena. But this is what we do, and does not define who we are.
At one level, all of us have secret aspirations of becoming superstar athletes, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, top journalists, movie stars, doctors, scholars, can-do politicians, inventors and entrepreneurs, better dads/moms, sons/daughters, even bad guys, etc., where what we say moves companies, markets, voters and arguments.
Thus, it seems tweeting is about being the first on headline commenting and/or reporting from the mundane (subjective) to the moving.
Exposure and experience
The nature of my “calling card”, global in title, has made me an international road runner. It has exposed me to so much in the last 15 years, from airline lounges, airlines and journeys of, at times, 17 hours, airports, hotels, taxis, tourist traps, meetings, etc. Thus, at times, I feel like a secret shopper, business development officer (outside my profession), observation tower (of people, marches, events, speeches, natural phenomenon, etc.), roving reporter, etc.
I want to share these moments, in the form of 140-character mini op-eds, but never took the first step for a number of reasons (probably intimidated by such media), and, on hindsight, missed the opportunity to connect and learn from others (much earlier). Initially, I would have probably tweeted to connect with fellow practitioners in Islamic finance and halal (large community?), and then expanded to the more pressing issues in the Muslim world, from sports to athletes to policy to tolerance to hypocrisy, and connectivity and perception influence of the non-Muslim world.
Lincoln quotes for Muslims
Let’s start with a tweet for all Muslims and non-Muslims:
“I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of the US. How is this even different to the basic teachings of Islam or any other religion? Muslims, including myself, are you reading, understanding, and executing? The non-Muslim world needs to heed the advice of this statesman towards Islam.
He also said: “… Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.’” All of us have examples of people we know or can predict who will fail or have failed this character test! The Muslim world is not only cursed with black gold (oil), but also power without accountability still prevails in many parts of its society. Do we thank the colonial geographic boundaries that seem to have created mental barriers?
What would I ask in the world of Islamic finance and halal
I would tweet the following:
Students: they are spending money on courses, diplomas, etc., and want meaningful jobs upon graduation; yet, we talk about shortage of skilled people, huh? Walk the talk, Islamic finance.
Scholars: they are entitled to a livelihood to support families, but what is reasonable number of board membership?
Man on street: Islamic finance is not Qard Hassan (benevolent loan) or charity, but about profits not profiteering. Where are the imams, as they are the local trusted gatekeepers to the community, and, in Arab Spring countries, it’s about the mass retail.
Disenfranchised (bulk of the 1.6 billion Muslims): we are still waiting for Islamic finance and many of our Muslim-majority countries are non-co-operative, whom do we turn to? Shadow banking system is the only alternative as only collateral is life/blood?
Regulators/public sector: need to establish foundation for market, initially lead market and then regulate market, and cannot be an indefinite market participant as the “crowding out” phenomenon kicks in.
Anti-shariah movement: present your evidence on it financing terrorism, Malaysia and Dubai would host such an event to discuss its veracity.
Conventional institutions in Islamic finance: are you about absorbing liquidity or providing value and commitment? HSBC Amanah downsized operations in a number of countries where margins are not being met, profits versus commitment (beyond short term).
Islamic finance: you have proved you are viable (alternative), credible (non-Islamic institutions involved), durable (better survived the recent external shock, but not by much), but what are your sustainable and scalable growth plans?
Halal industry: what is your story (brand)? Why are you even more fragmented than Islamic finance? Don’t you realise you’re an asset class? Malaysia, you will just lose the halal hub title if you do not focus in building such companies (inorganically) as global brands versus the continued comments of Jakim, HDC, etc.
Modern-day lifetime achievement award for Islamic finance: Sh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai, VP and Prime Minister of UAE, two words: continued commitment.
The rest of the world: what is Islamic finance and how has it changed lives, inspired humanity, or rather where is IF in moments of global tragedies and catastrophes?
I would tweet on following:
Why do we have “His/Your Highness”, “Your Majesty”, “Sultan”, “Emir”, “Prince and crown prince”, “Datuk and Tan Sri”, “King and Queen”, etc. when the Prophet of Islam did not have such references. Yes, we respect our leaders and titles like President, Vice-President, Prime Minister. Why can’t we make them more human, approachable and accessible? Aren’t these titles creating a mental and social class war/barrier? Is this an effective way to rule in the 21st century?
Where is the healthy food in Malaysia? Yet, what little is available tends to be expensive! I have been coming to Malaysia for 15 years, and go to the gym religiously, and rarely see Malaysian men there. Obesity-cum-diabetes is a major issue in the GCC, and Malaysia may not be far behind! (But Malaysian men may be spending time on football pitches and badminton courts — who knows?).
We have 57 Muslim countries in the OIC, but what clustering has captured the investing world’s attention like BRICS? I suggested SAMI + 3 — Saudi Arabia, Ankara (Turkey), Malaysia, Indonesia, Egypt, Pakistan and Nigeria. It could also be MIST + 3, but MIST implies a fog, haze, etc, lack of clarity.
To tweet or not
When Microsoft started making computers in the ‘70s, it wanted to put a PC in every home. In less than 40 years the world has changed and today we have a computer in every pocket/handbag.
The dangers of tweeting remain. Once you start, it is difficult to get out of it. It may rule your life (i.e. one keeps checking the phones at the expense of real-life human contact). But like everything in life, moderation is key in action.
Need to tweet to connect with a society wired on social media, yet to do so with wisdom, caution and more importantly substance. There are always the red herrings of “committed” tweeting communities that feel the need to share their every move — it is this culture that perhaps still stops those who would/could benefit the world of “tweet” from tweeting.
In conclusion, to tweet or not to tweet is no longer the relevant question to being relevant today. Maybe the question should be — do I tweet to share my next appointment or my next meal or my next relationship — or do I tweet to make the world a better place? To do my small part in making that difference?
So, for those about to tweet, we salute you (but be careful and responsible).
Sorry. No data so far.
Contacts and information
AlifArabia’s aim is to offer a brutally frank but sincere analysis on the Middle East region’s business and political issues. It wants to see a thriving and dynamic Middle East that encourages corporate and government transparency, investments and policies that allow the economies to grow.
Most popular categories