In this project we ask "What are the dynamics that keep Muslim immigrant entrepreneurs in Norway from growing micro- and small-sized businesses into medium- and large-sized enterprises, and thus keep them from becoming enhanced sources of socio-economic equality and integration? How can they be overcome?" We focus on cases like: Mohammed, a 35 year-old Syrian refugee, arrived in Oslo in 2013. He opened a small grocery store, using informal financing from the local mosque. The small business is doing well, but he would like to expand to improve his family?s living conditions. However, Mohammed is reluctant to take out a formal business loan because the interest charges (riba?) are forbidden in Islam. He approached his local mosque, but there have not been any feasible financing alternatives. He has hit the ?invisible ceiling? of financial exclusion. Like other Muslim immigrant entrepreneurs in Norway, he experiences inequalities in his integration in Norway and obstacles to fully realizing his active citizenship. Research reveals that such Muslim immigrant entrepreneurs are unable to access acceptable financial tools formally, and instead rely on informal avenues for financing that limit their growth potential and impede integration. Through a 4-year project in 5 work packages, we utilize international and effective collaboration to understand the dynamics of this financial exclusion as revealed by the entrepreneurs in 5 Norwegian cities, key Muslim leadership, and relevant Norwegian organizations. The project combines insights and experts from civil society organizations, finance, history, and anthropology and employs methods such as interviews, participant observation, surveys, as well as textual analysis to understand how Muslim immigrant entrepreneurs in Norway navigate the financial landscape. Working closely with project team experts from civil society we will facilitate for knowledge exchange through developing and distributing a curriculum on the topic.
Due to COVID, the project fieldwork has been delayed. However, information dissemination about the project is active with many virtual conferences.
This interdisciplinary project takes on the challenge of financial inclusion for Muslim Immigrant entrepreneurs in Norway. An Islamic proscription against interest-based financing leads to financial exclusion for Muslim entrepreneurs in Norway, where Islamic finance tools are not offered. Research reveals that Muslim immigrant entrepreneurs are unable to access acceptable financial tools formally, and instead rely on informal avenues for financing that limit their growth potential and impede integration. Immigrants that experience structural barriers to labor market participation are more likely become entrepreneurs, and harnessing this potential will benefit Norwegian society.
Through a 4-year, 12MNOK project in 5 work packages, we utilize international and effective collaboration to understand the dynamics of this financial exclusion as revealed by the entrepreneurs themselves, Muslim leadership, and relevant Norwegian organizations. The project will generate actionable knowledge about the financial inclusion of immigrant entrepreneurs and develop innovative learning tools and teaching modules for key national stakeholders. The development and piloting of them also constitutes a central method in the data collection. The novelty of the project resides in the team comprised of experts from non-research organizations working with immigrant entrepreneurs (Diversify) and mosques and Muslim leaders across Norway (ICC) and researchers from anthropology, political economy, finance, and Islamic studies.
Focusing on the challenges faced by entrepreneurs as they grow their businesses beyond micro- or small-sized enterprises, the project’s impact lay in its key knowledge exchange with Muslim immigrant entrepreneurs, Norway’s Islamic leadership, as well as organizations that offer support to entrepreneurs. The project impacts promise successful financial integration of immigrant entrepreneurs, increasing equality, labor market integration, and access to healthy workplaces.