DUBAI, March 19 (Reuters) - Sheikh Muddassir Siddiqui, a prominent Islamic scholar and partner at international law firm SNR Denton's Dubai office, has resigned from the firm to pursue a career in sharia advisory services.
Siddiqui told The Brief, a Gulf-based magazine on legal affairs published by Thomson Reuters, that he had stepped down as head of Islamic finance at SNR Denton because of the rapidly changing legislative environment in the Middle East and North Africa.
"For someone with my background, this is the right time to focus on sharia advisory," he said in an interview. "Islamic finance is growing at a fast speed.
"New areas and jurisdictions are opening up in countries such as Oman, Egypt and Libya. I am uniquely blessed and qualified to have seen the Islamic finance industry from all angles."
Libya, Egypt and Tunisia have seen renewed interest in Islamic finance since last year's uprisings toppled governments which neglected or discouraged the industry for ideological reasons. Oman announced last May that it would introduce Islamic finance.
As a partner at an international law firm, Siddiqui said he was limited in his ability to provide advice on sharia matters, and that he could not sit on the sharia boards of Islamic financial institutions because of possible conflicts of interest. Sharia boards screen institutions' business and products to confirm they follow religious principles.
Siddiqui, who is a member of the sharia standards committee of the Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI), a Bahrain-based body that sets standards for the industry, said he wanted to expand his advisory services beyond finance and into matters of contract law and insolvency law.
"It is a matter that is close to my heart," he said. "There is a shortage of scholars who understand both the legal system and sharia requirements. I want to be a bridge builder, being a student of law as well as sharia."
A spokesman for SNR Denton said the firm would maintain a relationship with Siddiqui as a consultant advising on Islamic finance matters.
The firm's global Islamic finance team will now be led by partners Paul Jarvis and Martin Brown in the Middle East and Richard de Belder, Paul Holland and Matthew Sapte in London. Before joining the firm in 2008, Siddiqui was senior lawyer and internal sharia supervisor at the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank.
(Reporting by Shaheen Pasha)
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