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“We believe knowledge is power”

Interview - May 21, 2014
The International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) aims to become a leading international centre of educational excellence which seeks to restore the dynamic and progressive role of the Muslim Ummah in all branches of knowledge and intellectual discourse. Rector of the University Dato Sri Zaleha Kamaruddin talks to PM Communications
Can you please share with the readers of The Daily Telegraph IIUM’s role in Malaysia’s education system?

I became the Rector of IIUM in 2011 with the objective to take the university to a global stage. We want to continue collaborating closely with other nations to create new leaders that can contribute to the development of their countries. 
Next year we will collaborate with numerous agencies, NGOs, and government officials for the Halal Festival. As an international university we are looking to play in the global arena. We want to position Malaysia as the global training centre for Halal. We believe that this university plays a significant role in support of the Muslim world. As you know the Halal Industry is very big worldwide. We want to specialize in the marketing and development of new products and we have the necessary expertise to excel globally. 
Malaysia is a world hub for many industries, for instance oil and gas and Islamic financing. How do you think the IIUM is contributing towards Malaysia’s goal to become an education hub?
We believe knowledge is power. Other institutions are concentrating in developing skills; we want to create leaders through knowledge. IIUM is the institutions specialized in capacity building. For instance, we provide the knowledge for the creation of many Islamic financial products. We have been picked by the Ministry of Education to lead this EPP (Entry Point Project).

This is part of the Malaysia Economic Transformation Program, which has the objective of improving Islamic education. We need to improve the talent of the Islamic Finance graduates. We are doing very well in this project. We invited several universities to collaborate further in order to achieve Malaysia’s goal. 
There is an increasing interest from UK students and faculties to explore opportunities in Asia. How is IIUM working towards forming new partnerships with British universities?

We are looking at developing MOUs with some UK universities. The EPP will reach the international arena very soon; therefore through new partnerships we will export programs internationally. Currently the UK is the best place to offer such programs because of the interest that has been created around Islamic finance. In addition, the United States is also interested in the development of Islamic Finance.

The financial crisis of 2007 increased the interest in Islamic finance of non-Muslims. Bankers in Dubai have contacted us in order to support their development in terms of Islamic Banking. We promote a global exchange amongst our students through our network with the FUIW (Federation of Universities in the Islamic World) composed of 300 universities. Moreover, we also offer online programs for international students and we collaborate with IRTI, the research arm of the IDB (Islamic Development Bank).
How is IIUM supporting Malaysia’s objective of becoming a high-income nation? 
Malaysia aims to become a knowledge hub and the Federal Government sponsors this university; therefore, they expect us to produce wonders. We invite regularly Tun Mahathir as he wants to see IIUM as the platform for the internationalization of Malaysia. We produce human capital for the future of the country and the world. Our students are spread throughout the world in strategic positions. 
In order for Malaysia to achieve Vision 2020, we must focus, as we are, on education as this represents the key driver of the economic transformation of the Nation. Currently we have 28,000 Islamic Finance graduates; our objective is to have 60,000 by 2020. It is an ambitious objective that we will achieve if we keep on collaborating with international institutions. 
When Malaysia decided to liberalise legal services seven years ago the Bar Council approached us. Currently foreign lawyers can practice in Malaysia; we offer an executive program to train them in Islamic Finance because of the increasing in the demand in this program from Lawyers in new markets such as South Africa. 
What is your vision regarding the role of Islamic Finance in creating a more sustainable global financial system?

Islamic Finance is based on real economy; it is based on commodity trading. Islam doesn’t permit the trading of some forms of debt. As you can see there is no uncertainty in Islamic Finance. Therefore, it can contribute to creating a more sustainable global financial system. 
IIUM provides services to the industry in terms of regulation. Our department of Sharia Law is key in assessing Sharia Boards. In addition, we work hard in innovation. We want to receive the Research University status from the Federal Government this year because we recognise that research brings new knowledge; however, we cannot increase our research departments without the right funding. New knowledge and innovation is key for our institution. We believe that if the Federal Government finances our research department we will be able to turn around their investment three times in terms of new products and services. The global trend in education is exploring new frontiers and creating new products.   
How is IIUM implementing new technologies to its academic offer?
IIUM believes in the ethical use of technology. We do have several projects in the pipeline that will increase the use of ICT for the benefit of our students. For example, our campus is entirely connected via WIFI. We have platforms that allow students to reach lecturers 24 hours. We are emphasizing that Islam should not be static; we unite in order to innovate.
What role can IIUM play in bridging the gap between the West and the Islamic World?
IIUM is a new university that can become an Islamic window to the Western world. We train our students in Arabic and English. This is a good opportunity to reach out the Western world and show them the true values of Islam. Language and culture are key for this university. Within our faculty we have people that have been trained in the Western world in order to bring that experience to our students. The mission of the university is to produce global graduates; our students are not meant only for the Muslim world.