Financial Accessibility and Inclusivity: Refugee Community in Scotland  

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Lead Organisation:
Al-Maktoum College of Higher Education
Award Amount:

This interdisciplinary project takes on the challenge of financial inclusion for Muslim Immigrant entrepreneurs in Scotland.

This project utilizes a novel interdisciplinary approach to generate new knowledge and solutions for key immigrant-integration issues: how to assist Muslim immigrant entrepreneurs as they open and grow new businesses; help the Scottish government achieve key SDGs; and advocate for improved welfare and equality, healthier living conditions and working life, and equitable access to the labour market for these Scottish residents and citizens.

Key Information

The project aimed to respond to one of the umbrella expectations of the UN-Sustainable Development Goals, specifically financial inclusion. Financial inclusion is positively associated with poverty alleviation, entrepreneurship development, labour market inclusion, and individual and community development. Therefore, financial inclusion, as a target, through entrepreneurship development can help meet 7 SDGs, including: SDG1 on alleviation poverty; SDG 3 on promoting good health and well-being; SDG 5 on achieving gender equality and economic empowerment of women; SDG 8 on promoting economic growth and jobs; SDG 9 on supporting industry, innovation, and infrastructure; SDG 10 on reducing inequality; and SDG 17 through savings mobilization for investment, which can help with economic growth.

Key Information

Project partner

University of Durham, University of Dundee, University of Abertay, Edinburgh Napier and Trinity College Dublin

Geographical reach

Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Angus, Dundee, Edinburgh, Fife, Glasgow, Perth and Kinross, Stirling


01/09/2021 – 30/09/2022

Target Groups

Gender, Socio-economic disadvantage

Project Type

Supporting innovation


Existing literature demonstrates that financial exclusion amongst entrepreneurs in Scotland takes place because the sector fails to recognize their unique needs–as immigrants, religious congregants, according to gender, amongst other needs. Specifically, religious concerns about interest-based financing prevent Muslim populations from engaging in business activities and restrict their ability to seek formal funding for their projects. Islamic financial development in Muslim-majority countries has advanced in recent decades. However, most Muslim-minority countries have not developed the necessary Islamic structures to respond to the financial aspirations of the Muslim immigrant communities to help them overcome financial exclusion

Involvement of New Scots in project

There have been lots of challenges in the early period of our research project as we were trying to find the way how to approach and get into Muslim communities in Scotland. Ramadan really helped us to reach most of our participants.


The academic papers that have been produced and hopefully published in special issue and some other places will be always the point of reference on any discussion about Muslim financial inclusion in Scotland. In addition, educational videos on the invisible ceiling for Muslimprenours in Scotland provided by the college will have a huge impact on refugees, imams and policy makers who will be able to refer to that.

Challenges encountered

We found that the sensitive issues of a financial ceiling based on religious and cultural barriers are not explored at all. The existing theories and literature are mainly about tackling issues from very much a Eurocentric perspective within the discourse of modernity and as such do not consider the main challenges of refugees. Hence, there was a need to change the discourse into ground theory by collecting the primary data (questionaries and interviews) and then creating the narrative of the invisible ceiling. In the second stage of research (approaching imams and community leaders for interview) there were additional challenges in gaining the insight into mosques’ role in shaping entrepreneurial identities. Reaching a high number of Muslim migrants in Scotland was additional challenge as it required, at certain point, going from door to door asking them to fill the questionnaires.


The positive aspects of taking on a new approach

Our research is very much undertaken with an academic approach, however, meeting the refugee entrepreneurs in person or talking to them on the phone/ teams/ skype etc created the feeling of belonging and care. Talking to them always involved a discussion about many other things which they like to ask academics and make conversions about. As no human endeavour is not easy, finding the right people and helping them express their perceptions and experience can be sometimes quite challenging.


If we could turn back time and conduct this research again then the starting point would be the design of the questionnaire and collection of results during Ramadan.

Interviewing imams is only possible through personal connection otherwise they are not willing to speak. Perhaps in the next similar research engagement of financial services such Islamic banks or Islamic Fintech comities is essential to jointly explore the market and concerns of potential customers.

Further information

Our research produced around eight academic papers which will appear in special issue of Global Policy journal. In addition a number of video lectures will be available on the college channel for free washing and gaining the certificate of completion.

Project Partners