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© Neena Bhandari, Indo Asian News Service

ImageMelbourne, Aug 31 (IANS) The first ever masters degree in Islamic commerce to be offered at an Australian university has some overseas Indian students excited about future prospects in this fast-growing segment of global finance.

"I am very excited that La Trobe University will be offering a course in Islamic banking and finance (IBF). By learning about Islamic commercial laws, I can help the people of my community in their development," Mohammed Rizwanuddin, who is originally from Hyderabad, told IANS.

He is nearing completion of a two-year masters in professional accounting at the university.

The Islamic commerce course will commence in February 2009 and will cost Australian $17,000 per annum for the one or two years required to complete it, depending on prior study and experience.

The eight subjects include legal and Islamic jurisprudence, Islamic commercial law, Islamic banking, Islamic insurance and Islamic financial markets and general areas of finance.

"As the concept of 'interest' is considered 'haram' (prohibited) in Islam, there are many Muslims who need financial support for their progress. I feel that Islamic commercial law can overcome this problem," said Rizwanuddin, who would like to return to India and help the Muslim community despite good job prospects in Australia and the Middle East.

According to The Banker global report, in the next five to 10 years, Islamic finance will require an estimated 50,000 employees to run the industry.

The Islamic banking and finance market is growing at an annual rate of 15 to 20 percent and there are more than 260 Islamic financial institutions operating worldwide.

The industry is likely to capture the savings of 1.6 billion Muslims around the world, a figure that is estimated to grow to 2.5 billion within the next decade.

"Such immense growth has brought Islamic finance to the attention of the international banking community, prompting major banks to set up Islamic financial windows to take advantage of the demand for Shariah compliant finance," Ishaq Bhatti, associate professor in the department of economics and finance and co-founder of the course, told IANS.

The master's course is aimed at meeting the demand for trained professionals in Islamic banking and finance sectors.

"Islamic banking is a community activity based on equity and security between lender and borrower. It seeks to encourage distribution of wealth. Profit and loss is shared by stakeholders on a proportional basis and there is no unnecessary exposure to risk and no ambiguity in the contract," explains Bhatti, emphasising that "maximising profit is not the major objective of this system".

It is a growing sector in Australia with several local banks - National Australia Bank, Kuwait Finance House, HSBC and Muslim Community Cooperative of Australia (MCCA) - active in the field.

Bhatti says the masters programme will appeal to international students from the subcontinent and other countries in Asia wanting Islamic financial training in English.

"In Iran and Saudi Arabia, more than 95 percent of all retail banking transaction is done through Islamic banking institutions. It is expected that Islamic finance will be the mainstream finance in the rest of the Gulf region in a couple of decades," Bhatti says.

"In Pakistan, Islamic finance is booming; in Bangladesh, microfinance is moving on Shariah compliance. According to The Banker's November 2007 issue, in Malaysia, Islamic institutions are expected to capture 25 percent of the market share of assets owned by 2010," adds Bhatti.

Agrees Vamsi Parvataneni, the Melbourne-based CEO of Storm Group, one of the leading educational consultants for Australia. "There will be high demand for this course from students coming from Hyderabad, Aligarh, Kashmir, Mumbai and Ahmedabad," Parvataneni told IANS.

Hayat Khan, a lecturer and co-founder of the course at La Trobe, said: "The new course is designed to meet a very real need. The course merges Western and Islamic finance with modern techniques. Islamic banks will account for 40 to 50 percent of total savings of Muslim populations worldwide in 8-10 years."

In 2007, India was the second largest source of overseas students with 63,604 students enrolled in Australian educational institutions. Of the top 10 source countries, the strongest growth since 2006 was from India at 63.9 percent.

© Copyright Neena Bhandari. All rights reserved. Republication, copying or using information from any content is expressly prohibited without  the permission of the writer and the news agency through which the article is syndicated. 

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