‘Changing Narratives’ and the Exciting future of Islamic Economy

Sadia Karim Current Issues in Islamic Finance, Entrepreneurship, Human Resources in Islamic Finance, Islamic Banking, Islamic Economy, Islamic Finance, Islamic Finance Education, New & Noteworthy Leave a Comment

We have gut feelings, we have research data, and we have rational analysis. All three indicate that ‘Islamic Economy’ (Islamic Finance and Halal sectors) is heading towards an exciting future. The global Islamic Economy may be well positioned today to reach a level in the next five years that was unthinkable in the last five years. This is going to be possible with three factors of change: a plethora of entrepreneurship throughout the OIC countries, the rise of crowdfunding opportunities, and access to technology (as a facilitator for innovation, communication and collaboration).

Opportunity doesn’t come alone; it has a constant companion called ‘challenges’. So what are the challenges? They come in many shapes and forms – some are easy and take less time to overcome, some are not so easy and take a little bit more time to overcome. I will talk about the easier one here: the challenge with the ‘narrative’.

Here is brand theory # 1: “If one brand with a specific keyword is given strength, the other brand with the same keyword loses its strength”.  

Read, reread, think, and reflect.

What if one brand is positive and the other brand is negative? i.e. the positive brand is what produces positive outcome, and the negative brand is what produces negative outcome.

Here is brand theory # 2: “The faster the positive brand with a specific keyword is given strength, the faster the negative brand loses its strength”.  

This is possible because as human being we are born with an optimistic view of life, but if we are exposed to too many negative experiences throughout life, we tend to lose that optimistic view over time. Providing constant positive experience can bring the optimism back to some neccessary extent. This is general observational rule with its own exceptions.

Few years ago, I attended a webinar on leadership where the speaker said something very interesting and I wrote it down. He said “In the upcoming decade, the world will be so chaotic; people will be so confused, that if anything is presented to them with ‘clarity’ and ‘speed’, they will buy it even if it is an outright lie”.  

He said that from consumer psychology perspective. What struck me was the word ‘confusion’.

I asked myself, so what are the possible things people will be confused about? This question gave me a list of bullet points. I will share one critical bullet point here.

The Means vs. The Ends 

I teach this point in my course here. Means are the ‘processes’, ends are the ‘goals’. To give a brief explanation:

‘Financial Inclusion’ is a mean. ‘Uplifting the standard of living of the underserved’ is the goal.

‘Democracy’ is a mean. ‘Establishing a just, equitable society that serves the need of all’ is the goal.

Now throughout the last fifty plus years we have seen the result of the confusion between means vs the ends for the second example.

We haven’t seen the result of the first one yet because this is a new keyword as compared to the second one. Is there a possibility that there may be confusion about this keyword as well? Historical knowledge and rational analysis says – ‘yes’.

Here is a recent example:

By the middle of 2015, mankind has accumulated many heartbreaking photos. As 2015 ends, this one will probably come in the top 5 of that list. The full story is here.

Was the man ‘financially included’? The answer is ‘yes’.

What if the man was NOT financially included? Could he buy bread for his family on that day the photo was taken? I’ll let you figure out the answer using your creative imagination.

Ok, now let’s analyze this scenario:

There are two men. First man wants to go to point A. Second man wants to go to point B. The two points don’t end up in the same direction. Both of them want to reach their destination with the same black Mercedes. They agree to ride on the same vehicle as their ‘means’ are the same even though the ‘goals’ are not the same.  They do it because both want to reach their destination fast and there is no other vehicle nearby that matches their criteria.

If the black Mercedes is programmed to reach only one destination due to its fuel limitation, how will they reach their goals?

The man who is smart and knows about the limitation will try to sit in front of the steering wheel so that he can drive the Mercedes to his preferred destination.

If the first man doesn’t get the driving seat the next thing he can do is to try to convince the second man why point A is a better destination so that he drives towards point A instead of point B. If he is good at persuasion with excellent communication skills, the second man may be convinced totally forgetting his original destination.

The ride is much pleasant when the destination is the same. When the goals are not the same, at some point of time, agitation may begin and conflict may arise.

Therefore forgetting goals and focusing on means can be costly.

Changing Narratives 

Coming back to the title and where I began. The easier challenge for Islamic Economy in its journey is to change the negative narratives associated with its brand identity and not to change its own brand identity. It is not only possible but it is the easier among all other challenges at hand. It requires extraordinary human capital who has vision, courage, and creativity. It requires setting up a clear goal, taking collaborative measures to attain that goal, it requires leveraging every signle resource that can facilitate the journey towards a beautiful destination. If the focus is given on that keeping the goal of benefitting mankind in mind and keeping away from all other distractions, a multitude of means will appear on the horizon, faster than many can imagine.

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