Scarborough’s Centennial College, one of the most diverse campuses in the country, has become the first in Canada certified to teach Islamic finance – a system that does not charge interest or invest in commodities that contravene Islamic law.
The one-term course will be offered online, starting this fall, to students across Ontario for about $500.
One major bank has already expressed interest in training some of its staff in the basics of Islamic banking, said John Harris, chair of the college’s accounting and financial services programs.
“We have created the course in response to demand from a number of sectors – including one of the major banks that said it wants to be able to talk the same language as clients whose background is based in Islamic finance,” said Harris, adding that the course will be taught by Islamic scholars.
“They want to be able to structure contracts without offending their client base.”
The London-based Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment has accredited Centennial to deliver the new Islamic Finance Qualification.
Students will learn how to draw up alternative contracts for lending money that might include a letter of credit or a guarantee, said Harris, rather than the application of interest over time – which Islamic law sees as punitive to the borrower.
“The funds are provided as more of a partnership, an agreement between two parties that avoids the promise to pay interest,” he said.
There has been a growing market for Islamic-compliant mortgages, which are often structured so that the borrower ends up leasing to own the property: essentially paying rent instead of interest.
A study by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. recently concluded there is no legal impediment to offering such financing in Canada.
At a regional summit last spring on reviving the GTA’s economy, federal Liberal Finance Critic John McCallum suggested making Toronto a global hub for Islamic finance, a field said to be the fastest-growing segment of the financial services industry, expanding by 20 per cent each year since 2001.
A study of Islamic finance by the law firm Stikeman Elliott projected that by 2017, Muslims will make up between 3.7 per cent and 4.9 per cent of Canada’s population.
“Consequently, there is expected to be increased demand for Islamic financial services in Canada in the coming years, potentially providing a tremendous opportunity for financial firms prepared to serve this growing community,”
The course can be taken online as a stand-alone course through the continuing education service “Ontario Learns,” through corporate training or as a credit course in one of Centennial’s two-year accounting programs.
source : Toronto Star