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Sept 20, 2016: Zaheer Chauhan, a public relations consultant in Mumbai, laments the fact that Islamic banking is not available in India.
He uses conventional banking, but he tends to keep his financial activities with the bank to a minimum because as a Muslim, he simply would not be comfortable with certain transactions.
“I’d prefer to use an Islamic bank,” Chauhan says to The National that “One of the major reasons is interest on finance is prohibited [under Islamic law] and Islamic banking would give all the benefits without interest,” mentioned thenational.ae reports.
“The entire game of interest is holding me back from investing, be it in mutual funds, taking loans for a car, property, consumer durable,” he says.
— Islamic Finance-IFG (@IFGateway) September 18, 2016
But it may not be too long before Islamic banking is available in the country, with strides being made towards introducing the alternative system.
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), as part of its plan to boost financial inclusion in the country, has proposed to the government that interest-free banking be introduced in India, according to the central bank’s recently released annual report.
This could pave the way for Islamic banking in the country, although strong opposition is coming from some corners.
In Islamic banking, which follows the Sharia, interest is not allowed and should not be paid or collected on deposits and loans. Also, investments should not be made in areas prohibited under Islam, such as alcohol and pork. To earn money, instead of interest, Islamic banks rely on profit-sharing and fees.
“It is observed that some sections of the Indian society have remained financially excluded for religious reasons that preclude them from using banking products with an element of interest,” the RBI report stated. “Towards mainstreaming these excluded sections, it is proposed to explore the modalities of introducing interest-free banking products in India in consultation with the government.”
The State Bank of India was planning to launch a Sharia-compliant mutual fund about two years ago but the plan was scrapped at the last minute. The Sunday Guardian reported that this was because Swamy had intervened to halt the launch.
In a letter to the Indian newspaper, he was reported as having written that Islamic banking would be “politically and economically disastrous for our country”, and he expressed concerns that it could lead to “dubious funds” being brought into the country via Islamic banks.
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But Narendra Modi’s government is eager to advance financial inclusion in the country so that more of the population can come under the formal banking system.
Abhimanyu Sofat at India Infoline, a financial services company with its headquarters in Mumbai, says that Islamic banking does have “big potential” given the number of Muslims in the country, but he thinks that any introduction of Islamic banks could be a lengthy process.
“There could be new legislation that would be required to get this implemented,” he says. There are a couple of mutual fund schemes in India that are Sharia-compliant, although they are marketed as “ethical” funds, mentioned thenational.ae reports.
Previously, the RBI had taken the position that Islamic finance could be offered through non-banking institutions – but should not be offered through banks. This latest move, therefore, marks a significant shift.
India has more than 180 million Muslims, so many believe there is a huge opportunity for Islamic banking to take off in the country.
“The RBI has given its opinion and it’s now up to the government of India to make up its mind,” says H Abdur Raqeeb, the general secretary of the Indian Centre for Islamic Finance.
Middle class and wealthy Muslims in India “reluctantly” use the conventional banking system, because they have no choice, while some Muslims, avoid using banks altogether because the system goes against their religious beliefs, he says.
He says that he expects to see Islamic banking launched in India within the next year following the latest signs that there is a push towards its introduction.
“There is definitely scope and space for Islamic banking in India,” he says. “I don’t think it can be stopped from coming for much longer.”
Kerala’s finance minister, T M Thomas Isaac, last month said the state’s government would launch Islamic banks within the next two years, Indian newspaper The Hindu reported. He said that Islamic banking offered an alternative system to the capitalist structure that triggered the global economic crisis of 2008, according to the newspaper.
Mr Raqeeb insists that Islamic banking is not necessarily only for Muslims and it could help to bring more Indians from poorer backgrounds into the banking system. Farmers could be among those to benefit, he says, with farmer suicides in India often linked to crippling high-interest loans that they have taken out.
“The marginalized people and the minorities are excluded from banking, so we think if this alternative system comes, it will be inclusive.”
There have been other recent steps towards Islamic banking in India. Saudi Arabia’s Islamic Development Bank this year announced plans to launch its operations in Ahmedabad in Gujarat, a state in west India. But there are politicians in the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that are vehemently opposed to the introduction of Islamic banking in India.
The most vocal of them is Subramanian Swamy. The BJP politician has long argued fiercely against Islamic banking and does not believe that it has a place in the secular society of India. On Twitter, he once said that “Islamic banking is a failure in Dubai” and in India it would “be conduit for religious conversion – no loan to Hindus on technicalities”.
– by Shayari Dutta of NewsGram. Twitter: @shayari_dutta
The US researchers have discovered a class of immune cells that plays a role in miscarriage, which affects about a quarter of pregnancies.
Researchers at the University of California-San Francisco found that the recently discovered subset of cells known as extrathymic Aire-expressing cells in the immune system may prevent the mother's immune system from attacking the placenta and fetus.
The researchers showed that pregnant mice who did not have this subset of cells were twice as likely to miscarry, and in many of these pregnancies fetal growth was severely restricted.
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"When you're pregnant, the immune system is seeing the placenta for the first time in decades -- not since the mother made a placenta when she herself was a fetus," said Eva Gillis-Buck, from UCSF.
"Our research suggests that this subset of immune cells is carrying out a sort of 'secondary education' -- sometimes many years after the better-known population of the educator cells have carried out the primary education in the thymus -- teaching T cells not to attack the fetus, the placenta and other tissues involved in pregnancy," she added. The findings are published in the journal Science Immunology.
The immune system has to be educated not to attack one's own tissues and organs to prevent autoimmune disease. But pregnancy presents a unique challenge since the fetus expresses proteins found in the placenta as well as proteins whose genetics are distinct from the mother.
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"It was a conceptual leap to link Aire-expressing cells, which are critical for preventing autoimmune disease, to pregnancy," said Tippi Mackenzie, Professor of Surgery at UCSF's Center for Maternal Foetal Precision Medicine.
In the thymus, Aire-expressing cells begin interacting with other immune cells very early in life to teach them what not to attack. The thymus begins to shrink and is nearly gone by adulthood, by which time most immune cells have been educated. But as the thymus shrinks, the population of eTACs in lymph nodes and the spleen expands, the researchers explained.
The study suggests a healthy pregnancy may depend on having these cells around, they added. (IANS/KB)
The tiny emojis being shared on billions of devices worldwide can play a major role in digital communication, with most people saying that emoji compels them to feel more empathy towards others, according to an Adobe report.
Adobe's global emoji study found that emoji even helps people overcome language barriers and form connections that would otherwise be difficult to do.
"We were surprised and delighted by the discoveries made in the survey, most notably how enthusiastic respondents were for emoji as a means to express themselves," the company said in a statement.
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Emojis sometimes get criticized for being overly saccharine, but this sweetness is key when it comes to diffusing some of the heaviness of online communication.
"Many of the emoji are focused on positive emotions, so it's easy to insert them into our conversations and lighten the mood," the Adobe study said.
It's not surprising that over half of those surveyed feel more comfortable using emojis than talking on the phone or in person.
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This applies to less intense situations too. Dating, for example, can be tricky — especially when it's online or via digital apps, as it often is now.
The study also found that emoji even helps people overcome language barriers and form connections that would otherwise be difficult to do.
In celebration of World Emoji Day on Saturday, Adobe's '2021 Global Emoji Trend Report' surveyed 7,000 people in the US, the UK, Germany, France, Japan, Australia, and South Korea. (IANS/KB)
Following the grand Richard Branson show where he carried Andhra Pradesh-born Sirisha Bandla and fellow space travelers on his shoulders after successfully flying to the edge of space, it is time for Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos to applaud Sanjal Gavande, one of the key engineers who designed the New Shephard rocket set to take Bezos and the crew to space on July 20.
Billionaire Bezos is set to fly to the edge of space aboard what is touted as the world's first unpiloted suborbital flight. Born in Kalyan, Maharashtra, Gavande is a systems engineer at Blue Origin who always dreamt of designing aerospace rockets.
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After completing Bachelor's in mechanical engineering from the University of Mumbai, she flew to the US in 2011 to pursue a Master's in mechanical engineering from the Michigan Technological University. She also applied for an engineering job at the US space agency NASA but finally landed her dream job at Blue Origin
Sirisha flew to the US in 2011 to pursue a Master's in mechanical engineering from the Michigan Technological University.IANS
Bezos, his brother Mark, aviation pioneer Mary Wallace 'Wally' Funk, and other passengers are set to liftoff from west Texas and travel just beyond the edge of space on July 20. Blue Origin announced this week that Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old high school graduate from the Netherlands, would join the crew.
Oliver is the son of millionaire Joe Daemen, Founder, and CEO of the Dutch investment company Somerset Capital Partners. Blue Origin, however, did not reveal how much Daemen paid for his son's trip to space. Bezos chose July 20 as the launch date to honor the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
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The launch site for Blue Origin's first human flight will be in a remote location north of Van Horn, Texas, from where the firm had launched New Shepard for previous flights. Blue Origin has received final approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to carry humans on the New Shepard rocket into space.
On July 12, Bandla touched the edge of space with three others, including Virgin Galactic's billionaire CEO Richard Branson. Bandla vaulted into space onboard VSS Unity 22. After the successful spaceflight, Branson carried the Indian-American on his shoulders while celebrating their flight to space, at Spaceport America in New Mexico. (IANS/KB)