Saturday, June 5

Five things you need to know about: The global Muslim market

This was a fascinating article. I am a bit interested in Islamic Finance. It provides a fascinating alternative to the currently held normal rules of investing and financial behaviour. Although I have my serious doubts about the “practises” of pricing Islamic instruments, the concept is quite interesting. A Muslim Private Equity sector so to say. So from that perspective, I agree with what the author says:

1. The size of the prize.

The global Muslim community, the ‘Ummah’ is huge – nearly 1.8 billion people around the world. The majority of those people are in Asia, particularly South and East Asia. It’s also a very young demographic – 52 per cent are under 24 years old. Author Vali Nasr has described this as ‘the third one billion market’ after China and India. However it has been widely neglected and has massive economic potential.

There are actually very few products that you can pitch to this entire population. So that has to be very clear. I cant say anything about Islamic Shampoo’s but what I can talk about are financial products. So the products that one can think about in this area are travel insurance, pilgrimage loans of a sort, basic mortgages, project financing, letters of credit, etc.

2. Don’t believe stereotypes.

Modern Muslims are going through a major period of re-assessment of their relationships with religious structures, cultural assumptions, authority, consumption and technology. This can be quite confusing for observers. A move towards conservatism in dress, for example, does not imply a rejection of hi-tech lifestyle items. They are often highly technically literate but at the same time do not see accepting Western technology as a reason to accept ideas they see as wrong.

This is nothing new, from time immemorial, Muslims have constantly reassessed their relationship with religious structures and frameworks. This is one of the reasons why so many sects of Islam have come forth. Also, I am not sure what this western technology is. Is Japanese technology western technology? How about the tech developed by India? This is a bit of a weird statement. And ironically, the chap warns against stereotypes and then proposes 5 rules/statements for the global muslims.

3. Tokenism doesn’t work.

Stamping products as Halal or Shariah-compliant is not enough. In fact our research shows that despite all the investment in Shariah banking, finance is seen as the least trusted category. Muslim consumers are highly interested in the authenticity and provenance of brands and the companies behind them. Their trust is therefore difficult to win, but once achieved is likely to be deeper.

This is indeed problematical. We dont have that many people who are cognisant of all the intricacies of finance versus Sharia. Then you end up in the problem of different sects. So there is over-reliance on a very few number of people who judge the authenticity and provenance of brands. Does that work to endanger trust? Sometimes.

4. It’s an open market.

You don’t have to be Muslim to be Shariah. Only 10 per cent of Muslim consumers cite manufactured for Muslims only as an important attribute when selecting brands. Ethics and business practice are perceived as more important.

Fair point

5. Engage strongly, but carefully.

The Muslim community is very open to marketers who seek their custom, so long as they feel it is done sincerely and honestly. However they are also fiercely protective of their religion and its culture, and very unforgiving to marketers who make mistakes or are seen to be hypocritical in their standards. There are many cases of bad errors in packaging, promotion and business practice.

Well, this is a matter for faith. When somebody asks me about Islamic Finance, I tell them to think about organic food. Its the same thing, for want of a different flavour, people are willing to pay more in a premium. But if the food turns out to be inorganic, trust is diminished and the stuff wouldnt sell.

Thursday, June 3

Veiling doesnt seem to stop harassment

One of the most frequent reasons given by Muslim women who are veiled or want to veil is that it allows them to affirm their faith, follow the strictures of Islam and basically stop themselves being looked as objects of lust. Dress modestly so to say, dont allow your hair to be seen and and and. So when I read this, I was a bit bewildered. I quote:

The Egyptian media reported that about 300 cases of sexual harassment against women occurred over the recent Adha holiday. The cases, which the Interior Ministry would not confirm or deny, varied from verbal taunts to assaults. Al Destour newspaper said the number of incidents was higher than what was reported during the Fitr feast in September.

Sexual harassment in Egyptian cities has become an disturbing phenomenon of late. It recently became associated with feast holidays, where thousands enjoy spending their free time outdoors. Younger generations face less-strict scrutiny from their parents, who tend to allow their daughters to go out without parental supervision during feasts. Police security is usually softer than it is throughout the rest of the year.

The biggest incident came during last year's Fitr, when 150 men and boys were arrested for going on a harassing spree in the streets of Mohandeseen in Cairo. A few of the defendants, who assaulted girls and cut their clothes, were taken to court and one was sentenced to a year in jail.

The number of harassment cases during the feasts echoes a study carried out by the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights (ECWR) last July, showing that 83% of Egyptian women and 98% of foreign females residing in the country reported being harassed.

Egypt's penal code sets imprisonment punishments for anyone who sexually assaults minors, but many assaulted women have seen their cases blocked as judges and prosecutors blamed similar incidents on the "provocative" way some girls are dressed. But the ECWR's study refutes such allegations, saying that 71.5% of women who reported sexual harassment were wearing veils (head scarves) and non-revealing clothes, and 19.6% of them were even wearing niqabs (face veils).

I am not really sure that veiling is really helping out here. And as usual, the problem is with the men. Without veils, you are accused of dressing provocatively and acting whorishly. Seriously, so many debates that i have followed in mailing lists or newspapers or elsewhere, the women who are veiled (and the men who support them) talk about bikini clad women, scantily clad women and how that doesnt give rise to dignity of the women. But seems like if you veil, you are in bigger danger of being groped and harassed. When I spoke to somebody who was Egyptian, their response was that the men think that veiled women are easy, they would not complain, they will simply take the harassment and walk on. Once a woman finds that her body is shameful and has to be hidden away, well, there you go, if you cover the meat, you will get handled, if you uncover the meat, you will be called as uncovered meat.

The problem is not going to be resolved by wearing burqa’s or the veil, the problem is that men are defining what women are and aren't. Look at what happened in New York. I quote:

Scantily clad hipster cyclists attracted to the Brooklyn neighborhood made it difficult, the Hasids said, to obey religious laws forbidding them from staring at members of the opposite sex in various states of undress. These riders also were disobeying the traffic laws, they complained

See? the men are the weak lot, they cannot control their lust and emotions. While I am fully in favour of what you wear and what not to wear, these internal contradictions need to be thought through a bit more. Given that Europe is moving towards banning the veil, does this mean that women’s harassment in Europe will be lessened?

Tuesday, June 1

Regulatory Business Analyst Required ASAP in Manchester

Got this in my email.

My client is a large financial organisation based in Manchester and I'm looking for an experienced Business Analyst to work on 2 compliance pieces that are at initiation stage:

Project #1 - European Union Consumer Credit Directive project (EUCCD):

EUCCD is a European Union directive which aims to create a comprehensive and harmonised framework for the regulation of consumer credit products across Europe. The project has been initiated to ensure my client adheres to the new regulation. Scheduled delivery date for these directives in the UK is June 2010.

Project #2 - Irresponsible Lending Guidelines project (ILG):

The office of fair trading (OFT) have issued a series of guidelines around business practices which grant customers access to credit. The project has been initiated to ensure my client adheres to the new regulation. Scheduled delivery date for these directives in the UK is January 2010.

The key deliverables within this role are:

- Define the scope and business priorities

- Complete comprehensive gap analysis against both set of regulatory guidelines

- Capture business requirements and business solutions to ensure adherence to the new regulations

The essential skills / experiences required to fulfill this role are as follows:

- Track record in change delivery, supporting projects in a Business Analyst role

- Experience of the financial services industry

- Able to capture and document high quality business requirements and processes, involving key stakeholders

- Strong communication skills

- Time management

- Data gathering and data collection skills

- Problem solving , analysis and reporting skills

- Experience of Regulatory Change is essential

- Workshop facilitation.

This is initially a requirement running up to the end of January but there is a possiblity it will run beyond that and I have up to £350 per day available to the right candidate.

If you're interested, please respond to this e-mail with a copy of your most recent CV.

Thanks for your time and attention.

but I found the second project quite interesting. Irresponsible Lending Guidelines? They are now going to have guidelines for irresponsible lending? Sheesh.

Monday, May 31

20 Reasons Why Women Are Better Than Men

1.    We can get laid anytime we want
2.    We never have to buy our own drinks at the bar
3.    We piss sitting down so its easier to pass out on the toilet when you’re drunk
4.    We get out of speeding tickets by crying
5.    We get out of speeding tickets by showing a little cleavage or leg
6.    We can sleep our way to the top of the class
7.    We get to shop at Victoria’s Secret
8.    We can marry rich and then not have to work
9.    We never have to pay when we go out on dates
10.    Men hold the door open for us
11.    We pout better (those puppy dog eyes always work!)
12.    We’re cuter
13.    We lie better
14.    We’re better manipulators
15.    We always end up sleeping in the bed when we fight with our other halves – you guys get the couch
16.    We always have food in the fridge
17.    We don’t worry about losing our hair
18.    We always get to choose the movie
19.    Men take us on all expense paid trips – all we have to do is sleep with them
20.    Men light our cigarettes for us

Majorities Reject Banning Defamation of Religion: 20 Nation Poll

Good!. I quote:

As the UN General Assembly prepares to debate a proposal calling for nations to take action against the defamation of religion, majorities in 13 of 20 nations polled around the world support the right to criticize a religion.
On average, across all countries polled, 57% of respondents agree that "people should be allowed to publicly criticize a religion because people should have freedom of speech." However, an average of 34% of respondents agree that governments "should have the right to fine or imprison people who publicly criticize a religion because such criticism could defame the religion."
The issue of whether freedom of speech should extend to discussions of religion has stirred considerable controversy in recent months. The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), a group of 56 Muslim nations, is championing a proposed U.N. resolution that calls on all nations of the world "to effectively combat defamation of all religions and incitement to religious hatred in general and against Islam and Muslims in particular."

And who were the dissenters? The typical idiot lot.

Of the seven nations where most people agree with that criticism of religion should be prohibited five have overwhelmingly Muslim populations -- Egypt (71%), Pakistan (62%), Iraq (57%), Indonesia (49%), and the Palestinian territories (51%). Another two -- India (59%) and Nigeria (54%)-- have historically been plagued by sectarian violence.

The United Nations passed one of the finest documents in human history, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That was its finest hour. If the United Nations now passes this defamation of religion crap, then it will show that idiots are now running the asylum. Freedom of speech is paramount. I can understand India and Nigeria objecting, they have a bunch of howling rage boys and most of the idiots who riot are basically barbarians who haven't evolved from pond life. But they still have hope. But religiously mandated defamation of religion? Good Lord (pun intended), get a grip you idiots.

Sunday, May 30

IT 4 children in hospital selected as the official charity for World Environment Day

I was quite chuffed to hear that the IT4CH charity was selected as the official charity for the firm which is celebrating World Environment Day. This is for next Friday, June 4th. The idea is that people are going to dress down, if you are wearing a suit and are square and boring and a total git, you have to pay £2, if not, and you are cool and excitable and a thoroughly good egg, you will get charged £1.

Here’s hoping people will be boring as heck and pay up more for the charity :). In the meantime, I thanked the various senior IT managers who have been instrumental in helping to release our old equipment for the charity. This is really good stuff, feels good to work for a firm which obviously cares for the environment, society and people. It shows up in the highest brand values and regularly tops the polls for the best place to work competitions.

Separately, we now have taken possession of a nice little property in London which we can use to store more equipment and use it for offices. I think this will truly help the charity move further along. I met Julia Ryan, who was the person who came up with the original idea for the charity. She heads up the arts department in a Hollywood TV studio with a clutch of hits under her belt. She manages to get us quite a lot of celebrity gift items which go further to help us along by auctioning them :).

Further on #DianneAbbott concerns about employment in Hackney #ukpolitics

Dianne Abbott was on the Andrew Marr Show today with Ian Duncan Smith. While DA was quite complimentary towards IDS’s views on benefits, she said that we should be careful about cuts because if the public sector contracts, there will be no jobs in the private sector due to the recession. I was surprised at this, why is the public sector suddenly become responsible for providing people with employment? And if you do not find employment in Hackney, why cannot you move to a place where there IS employment? Surely nobody is sitting here saying that they HAVE to have a job at their doorstep? If we do not have freedom of labour inside our own country, what on earth is going on?

So I went looking for some evidence. This is a report which was produced couple of years back. Based upon the graph in page 7, the public sector was the highest employer in the area. A total of 35% were in the public sector. This is in 2003, and I have no reason to believe that this figure has fallen. There are many reasons why there is not much job growth in this area is the lack of suitable premises and very high rental levels. So what has Dianne Abbott done on this? Searching for “rental” on her website provided no hits. There are also no hits on “planning” on her website. Lots of hits on “rents”, but none that I could see related to her attempts to address premises or rents to increase jobs. For jobs there were quite a lot of hits but none that really showed me that she was actually sitting down and addressing the actual problem of entrepreneurs creating jobs. Peripheral stuff yes, transport, crime, poverty, education, Olympics, and and and, but the crucial problems that have been identified for job creation? Not much. She writes an article on Unemployment here.  But her speech doesnt seem to address the basic problems of entrepreneurs who want to set up businesses as identified by the above report. In any case, her figures and assertions were challenged in this post.

Here is some further detail on Hackney’s unemployment situation and it makes for absolute dire reading. For example, 42% of Hackney’s households are on housing benefit and this is rising. DA has been an MP for this area since 1987, its not like she is new in this area. Her wiki entry says that she is interested in race, black people, schools, civil liberties. All very good stuff, but nothing about the basics being done I am afraid. She has asked quite a lot of questions in parliament about Departments: Home Department, Health, International Development, Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Education and Skills and Subjects (based on headings added by Hansard): Haiti, Asylum Seekers, Mental Health, Haiti: Earthquakes, Hackney, but doesnt seem to be doing much on the employment front. How about her pushing to see what was done about the recommendations of this report published in 2006?

The council seem to be full of initiatives (here is another report) but not much result seems to be happening. The unemployment situation is dire and becoming worse. The reasons give are

- Low levels of qualifications

- Lack basic skills for life

- Lack of affordable and accessible childcare

- Sickness and disability

- Poor transport and access to labour market

- Engrained culture of worklessness

- Opportunities presented by the informal economy

13 years of Labour Government, she being there since 1987, and we are STILL seeing these issues? These are all supply side problems mainly, what about the demand side? Why arent they doing what the entrepreneurs and job creators want?

Guess what? Hackney think there are NO red issues. What the hell? How can you NOT have any red issues with unemployment in double figures and half of the damn council’s population on benefits? What will it take to go on the red register? the Black Death Plague? or an Asteroid Landing? So I am afraid I will have to conclude that Dianne Abbott has to do much more about some basic things on the jobs front. Here’s a suggestion, Dianne. Concentrate on speaking to and working with people who are going to give the jobs rather than looking for the public sector or the supply side. If you give people housing, if you give them benefits, and then wonder why unemployment is high, it doesnt work. Get them to move to where the jobs are if that is indeed the problem.