Caught in a legal battle with Nice’s town hall in setting up a sign openly stating ‘Islamic finance’, Noorassur has decided to put an end to its project that started in June last year on opening a branch in the city of the French Riviera. MARC ROUSSOT reports.
Smack in between a rotisserie and a dry cleaner, there is a shop painted in apple green and white with no name. At first sight, it is difficult to say what could be offered in this shop. On the shop’s windows, a few photos including one of the Kaaba in Mecca below a banner stating ‘Islamic finance’ makes things clearer. Boulevard Carnot, Noorassur’s branch, is the only shop along the street that is without a sign.
“We have not been able to open our branch because of Nice’s town hall’s decision forbidding us to install a sign stating ‘Noorassur.com Islamic Finance’. As a result, the project is not financially sustainable,” laments Sonia Mariji, the founder and CEO of Noorassur, who accuses the mayor of Nice of playing party politics.
The municipality denies this accusation and explains that following the terrorist attack that occurred on the 14th July 2016, installing such a sign may trigger public disorder, which may affect the safety of Noorassur’s employees and customers.
“There is no racism here. It is our responsibility to be vigilant and inflexible with regards to every single matter that may trigger public disorder. Especially since there are precedents in the cities of Nantes and Chelles in 2016 proving that there is a serious risk that the installation of such a sign may generate trouble. Furthermore, the court also ruled that the request for such a sign was not compatible with Nice’s advertising regulations. Such a mark of communitarianism cannot be accepted in our city. Our goal has always been to achieve greater cohesion and integration,” the city of Nice shared with IFN.
The Administrative Court and the Council of State, France’s highest court for administrative justice, ruled in favor of the municipality’s decision but the case has not been heard on the merits yet. “If we win, I promise that we will open a branch in Nice,” states Sonia who affirms that since this case has started, she has been treated like an offender. “I have been wiretapped, the police conducted an investigation, my collaborators have been pressured and my family has been summoned by the police,” she says.
Looking toward the future, Sonia expects to develop its network of seven branches by opening 50 new ones in the entire country in 2018. A Shariah compliant current account is also in the pipeline as well as new Takaful and sustainable and responsible investment products.