Though generally misunderstood in the Western Hemisphere and characterized to a degree by its theoretical and religious foundations, Islamic finance is in a growth mode and is poised to be a major factor in global economic stability.
During her Boren Scholarship year in the United Arab Emirates, UGA Honors student Alice Naghshineh took classes in Media Arabic and translating Arabic, but she also immersed herself in the study of Islamic finance and Islamic economics, which she learned are two very different subjects.
“(Islamic finance) was more about the peculiarities and details of Islamic financial products, and while this was interesting, I was more interested in learning the theoretical and religious underpinnings of Islamic finance,” says Alice, a senior from Marietta majoring in economics, mathematics, and Arabic. “Islamic economics showed me that although this system ultimately strives to achieve objectives through an Islamic framework, many of its merits come from the sound, humanitarian economic objectives it seeks to achieve.
“My ultimate goal was to gain a better understanding of how Islamic finance and economics can fit into the global economic system. There is a lot of potential for bettering the relations between the West and the Middle East and North African region if we can find a suitable solution to such a problem. My year in the UAE has definitely given me the footing I need to begin delving into this problem.”
Alice, a UGA Honors International Scholar, adds that the most striking aspects of living in the United Arab Emirates were its diversity and what she terms its “contradictory nature.”
“I had heard that the UAE is the melting pot of the Middle East, so I was extremely excited to witness this for myself,” Alice, who has also studied abroad in Peru, India, and France, says. “The idea of meeting people from all over the world in the same country really thrilled me.
“I was also intrigued by the almost magical, contradictory nature of the Emirates. For example, the UAE has Sharjah, the Islamic Cultural Capital of 2014, and Dubai, a shiny city that boasts a man-made island and the tallest building in the world, which seemingly arose overnight. I couldn’t wait to discover how such a fast-moving, modern city could hold true to its Middle Eastern roots.”
After her Boren tenure came to a close, Alice remained in the United Arab Emirates working for Grameen-Jameel, the first social business in the MENA region, and took a course in Arabic for diplomats. This fall, Alice plans to study Farsi, and if she enjoys the experience, she will seek a Critical Language Scholarship for the summer of 2015 to study Persian in Tajikistan.
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