Ninth Harvard University Forum on Islamic Finance, Building Bridges Across Financial Communities,

March 27-28, 2010, Harvard Law School, Cambridge, MA., USA

The Ninth Harvard University Forum on Islamic Finance, hosted by Harvard Law School’s Islamic Finance Project, will be held at Austin Hall, Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts on March 27th- 28th, 2010. The theme of the conference will be “Building Bridges across Financial Communities” as it relates to the field of Islamic Finance.

The Harvard University Forum on Islamic Finance provides a venue for the critical and objective examination of the purposes, theory, practice, structure, and institutions of the rapidly developing field of Islamic finance. Continuing in this direction, the Ninth Forum will situate Islamic finance in the current economic context and compare it with other efforts dedicated to fulfill ethical commitments in the domain of finance. Particularly, the Forum will focus on a variety of challenges facing the field; namely the quest for Islamic finance to build bridges across the various faith-based, socially responsible, and corporate financial communities. Dialogue among these communities will no doubt go far in determining the shape of the fields’ future expansions, and the degree to which they become part of the financial mainstream.

Amidst the global financial crisis, questions have arisen as to whether faith-based or socially-responsible financial principles would have prevented or dampened the crisis. Basic assumptions regarding the role of banks, the responsibilities of regulators, the treatment of customers, and the bounds of financial innovation are being examined and revisited. Furthermore, increased attention has been given to the role that ethics and values may play in charting the future of the global economic system.

Part of this global discussion on the need for greater or improved ethics, values and social responsibility in modern finance includes a lively discussion on how religious principles and moral teachings can assist in defining this post crisis world. Throughout history, religious thought has been a significant source of ethics and values in the world of finance among different communities. For some, world religions have inspired observers to abstain from certain financial activities, while others have inspired certain forms of participatory economics. These frameworks have led to alternative sources of regulated investment, while reflecting the values, beliefs and teachings of the various faiths. Additionally, we may wish to consider the following questions: Can we compare and contrast Islamic finance funds with socially-responsible investment funds or faith-consistent investment funds? Are there lessons to be learned on all sides?