February 28, 2016
Sonia Mariji constantly repeats the phrase, stating it was the “greed crisis” of 2008 that pushed her to become involved in Islamic finance. At age 44, Sonia Mariji refuses any communitarian association with her business. In 2012, she created Internet Noorassur, her insurance brokerage company based on the principles of Islamic finance.
After Chelles, she recently opened her second agency in Melun, and hopes to open others in Nantes, Argenteuil, or Aulnay-sous-Bois. She reportedly has over 1,500 clients already, most in Chelles, the others on the Internet and claims to have started the first franchise network that is in accordance with the Qur’an. “It’s another type of finance, more ethical, and it is called Islamic but it could have another name, such as ‘participatory,’ even if there is a room for worship in each agency. But I wanted to keep its name. There’s no reason to hide it.”
Noorassur offers life insurance developed by Swiss Life and is working toward offering health insurance. “There’s no obligation to be Muslim to work with us,” she said. “It’s true that our first clients will most certainly be Muslims because there are no alternatives. But we will have clients from every background. There are non-Muslims who go to halal butcheries. The important part is to be offered the choice.”
And to have a more ethical choice. After obtaining an internal business studies diploma in Bourg-en-Bresse, Mariji, born in Morocco, worked in a life insurance company for ten years. “The 2008 crisis bothered me. I felt like I had in part caused it. I worked with companies that invested in subprimes. And I thought people would sleep better knowing where their money was going, what enterprise it was supporting.” Mariji then became interested in ethical finance, via socially responsible investments, and attended a conference at the University of Paris-Dauphine, which offers a master’s in Islamic finance.
“Islamic finance offers possibilities for ethical contracts. And there is certainly a market to work with,” she said, while assuring that she acted “with conviction.” “If I wanted to make more money and have less worries I would have stayed in traditional finance,” she said. “It’s not easy to learn about this. I spend my time teaching.” This has not prevented attacks on an agency in Nantes, whose window was broken even before it has opened, or death threats received in Chelles.
Despite all of this Mariji remains positive, convinced that her vision of things could create a better vivre-ensemble. “It lessens the frustration felt by people who feel that there are no available financial options,” she argued, “it’s going to lift spirits and show there is no reason for fear.”