UK and UAE complement each other on Islamic finance

uk and uae flagsDubai: On her visit to the UAE to promote London as a hub for Islamic finance, Senior Minister of State at the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office Baroness Warsi welcomed Dubai’s initiative to be the global centre of Islamic economy, saying that the two countries “absolutely” complement each other in this regard.

Read more at : http://gulfnews.com/business/economy/uk-and-uae-complement-each-other-on-islamic-finance-1.1229955

source : Gulfnews

Islamic Bank of Britain host UK’s first ‘Islamic Finance Question Time’

Islamic Bank of Britain plc (IBB) held a question and answer session hosted by the Bank’s Shari’a scholars, ‘Islamic Finance Question Time’ on April 23. The aim of the event was to “demystify Islamic finance and provide an insight into how it offers a faith-based alternative to conventional finance and banking,” according IBB spokesperson.

IBB’s Sharia Supervisory Committee (SSC) consists of esteemed Shari’a scholars, Sheikh Dr Abdul Sattar Abu Ghuddah, Sheikh Nizam Muhammed Saleh Yaqoobi and Mufti Abdul Qadir Barkatulla.

Commenting on the event, Chairman of the IBB SSC, Sheikh Abu Ghuddah, said, “Islamic finance is as old as the religion of Islam itself. However, there is still a lot of misunderstanding around how it works and the need for Muslims to manage their finances in Shari’a compliant manner. The IBB SSC hopes the Islamic Finance Question Time event has shed some light on the matter and gone some way to encouraging the further take-up of Shari’a Finance amongst the Muslim community.”

Senior Manager, Sharia Compliance at IBB, Samir Alamad, who works closely with the IBB SSC on a day to day basis, also commented, “The feedback from attendees of Islamic Finance Question Time has been very positive. The public welcomed the opportunity to engage with the IBB SSC so openly. The event is the first time a UK Islamic bank has given open access to its SSC, and this reflects the open and transparent way the Bank works with its customers.”

Over 150 guests attended the event, held in central London for a debate lasting over 1.5 hours. Of the questions, the following generated a lively and informed discussion amongst the panel and their guests:

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http://www.muslimnews.co.uk/paper/index.php?article=5838

UK Experts Eye Islamic Finance Solution

A decision by the UK government to put on hold earlier plans for the first Islamic sovereign bond from a western country was criticized as a setback for the initiative that could have provided more security to a shaking economy.

“It would certainly help the UK market if the government decided to go ahead with a benchmark sukuk,” Farmida Bi, partner at Norton Rose, the law firm, told the Financial Times.

“It could galvanize the market and would lead to more interest in Islamic finance in London and [continental] Europe.”

Affected by a financial crisis, the UK put the plans to issue the Islamic instrument on hold which would have been the first Islamic bond to be issued by a western government.

The government cited fears that a new instrument might struggle to attract demand in difficult market conditions that have been made worse by the troubles in the eurozone.

Yet, London still remains the main arena outside the Muslim world for Islamic finance.

In 2006, Britain’s fifth-biggest bank, Lloyds TSB, began to roll-out its Islamic financial services across the country.

The UK is the only country in the European Union to have Islamic banks. It is also developing its takaful market for Islamic insurance.

The UK also has a strong foothold in developing products such as commodity murabaha – Islam’s version of interbank short-term lending and syndicated loans.

Moreover, London has established the first secondary market in sukuk outside the Islamic world to help Islamic investors who seek to buy property and assets in the UK in a way that fits in with their religion, which bans earning interest, speculating or risk-taking.

London is also advanced in Islamic retail services, with institutions offering a range of Islamic banking products, such as mortgages and car loans.

The Islamic Bank of Britain, granted a license in August 2004, became the first Islamic bank in the UK and has continued to attract customers for mortgages.

Enhance Market

Admitting that the government made huge efforts to facilitate Islamic finance in the UK, there is a feeling among many bankers that the government must launch a sovereign sukuk to help the market move to the next stage.

“I think it has been a mistake by this government not to revive the idea of an Islamic government bond,” a banker at a big City institution told Financial Times.

“They worry about price and demand, but the UK gilts market is a haven.

“We are confident there would be strong demand for this product, as it is Islamic and would be denominated in sterling, which is what investors want, as there are so many problems in the eurozone.”

Despite the recent decision to hold the new instrument, the Islamic finance was gaining popularity in UK better than other European countries.

For example, though France has around 7 million Muslims, compared with UK 2 million Muslims, progress in Islamic finance in France was stalled due to problems over banning the face veil and burka in public places which put off investors.

Starting almost three decades ago, the Islamic banking industry has made substantial growth and attracted the attention of investors and bankers across the world.

A long list of international institutions, including Citigroup, HSBC and Deutsche Bank, are going into the Islamic banking business.

Currently, there are nearly 300 Islamic banks and financial institutions worldwide whose assets are predicted to grow to $1 trillion by 2013.

Islam forbids Muslims from usury, receiving or paying interest on loans.

Islamic banks and finance institutions cannot receive or provide funds for anything involving alcohol, gambling, pornography, tobacco, weapons or pork.

Shari`ah-compliant financing deals resemble lease-to-own arrangements, layaway plans, joint purchase and sale agreements, or partnerships.

Investors have a right to know how their funds are being used, and the sector is overseen by dedicated supervisory boards as well as the usual national regulatory authorities.

The Shari`ah-compliant system is now being practiced in 50 countries worldwide, making it one of the fastest growing sectors in the global financial industry.

source : onislam net

UK gov”t to support Islamic finance

The UK Treasury has introduced measures in Parliament to support Islamic finance and the issuance of corporate sukuk within the UK, Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported on Thursday.

“The Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 Order 2010,” will help to provide “a level playing field” for corporate sukuk within the UK, a statement by the Treasury said.

The Order provides clarity on the regulatory treatment of corporate sukuk, reducing the legal costs for these types of investments and removing unnecessary obstacles to their issuance.

Sukuk are a broad class of financial instruments designed to replicate the economic function of bonds, but with a structure which complies with Islamic principles. Although there is an obvious appeal to the Muslim community, sukuk can be issued and bought by everyone.

Treasury minister Sarah McCarthy-Fry said: “the objectives on Islamic finance are to enhance the UK competitiveness in financial services by maintaining its position as a Western leader for international Islamic finance; and to ensure that everybody, irrespective of their religious beliefs, has access to competitively priced financial products.

“This measure is another important step in the development of the Islamic finance sector in the UK and will help to provide a level playing field for Islamic financial products in this country. It is good news for the UK economy and for our Islamic finance industry”, she added.

source : Saba

London warms to Islamic finance

The land of Adam Smith now teems with a vibrant Islamic banking sector, with even non-Muslims being lured by the model’s promise of transparency and stability.

Shabaz Bhatti is proud to be a devout Muslim – but his plans to remortgage the family home with one of Britain’s new generation of Islamic banks isn’t just about religion.

The 30-something driving instructor wants reliability, and believes Britain’s growing Islamic finance sector offers this in a way that myriad traditional main street banks no longer do.

“It’s simple and straightforward, which is great because … it seems as though interest rates right now could go ballistic,” says Mr. Bhatti, whose parents immigrated to England from Pakistan.

At a time of almost unprecedented financial volatility, Islamic banks are being hailed as bastions of stability. Growing numbers of individuals and companies are now embracing their workings, which are based on Koranic principles.

Using law changes and generous tax breaks, the British government is now attempting to transform London into the Western world’s center for Islamic finance. Conventional banks and financial institutions are also rolling out a range of Islamic finance products.

Globally, the market for Islamic financial services is estimated to have grown more than threefold over the past decade – from around $150 billion in the mid-1990s to $500 billion in 2006.

Keen to tap into this, Britain’s authorities are planning to become the first Western government to issue an Islamic bond – called a sukuk – structured to comply with the sharia law principles of Islamic finance, which forbids all forms of interest payments.

Sharia law also prohibits investing in any enterprises involved with alcohol, gambling, tobacco, and pornography – a fact that nicely dovetails with the growing number of Westerners seeking socially responsible investments.

According to a new study by International Financial Services London (IFSL), an independent organization representing Britain’s financial services industry, Islamic finance will emerge largely unscathed from the current global crisis, largely because its structures make little or no use of many of the complicated instruments blamed for the current problems in conventional finance, such as derivatives and short-selling.

Although Islamic finance does allow for risk-taking, it does not permit excessive uncertainty, known as gharar. All deals to buy or sell are invalid if the object dealt with is not certain and transparent.

When risks are taken, the Islamic financial model insists they are shared. In retail, this involves the customer and their bank sharing the risk of any investment on agreed terms, and dividing any profits between them. Products revolve around principles such as murabaha, a form of credit enabling customers to make a purchase without having to take out an interest-bearing loan. The bank buys the item and then sells it on to the customer on a deferred basis.

Bhatti, who lives in the leafy London suburb of Wimbledon with his wife and young daughter, is currently a customer of Abbey National, a traditional, Western bank. He has had no objection to using conventional Western financial products. However, in the past, the couple were customers of the Bank of Kuwait when they bought a home costing nearly $200,000 in the London district of Croydon.

The Bank of Kuwait valued the house at about $270,000, based on what it was expected to be worth at a later date, and arranged for the family to pay the money back in equal installments over the next 16 years. Now, Bhatti is planning to return to such an arrangement by transferring his conventional mortgage to an Islamic bank.

“With the current economic situation, our plans to go back to Islamic banking are not just about religion, they’re a financial decision. It’s more secure … and it’s clearer for the future,” he says.

More than 26 banks in the UK offer Islamic financial products, including major institutions such as HSBC. Six Islamic banks are wholly compliant with sharia law. A pioneer of Islamic retail banking has been the Islamic Bank of Britain, which has 64,000 account holders and branches in cities including London, Birmingham, and Manchester. The bank recently launched its most competitively priced sharia mortgage to date, offering terms that company executives hope will lure takers beyond its core market of Britain’s 2 million working Muslims.

This country’s growing Muslim community is helping broaden London’s reputation as a financial capital, says Patrick Lamb, an official who joined a British government delegation this week to the World Islamic Banking Conference in Bahrain, where the UK authorities and a range of London-based banks and firms showcased their expertise.

“We have by far the largest concentration of Islamic finance anywhere in Europe,” Mr. Lamb says.

Along with home and retail finance, increasing numbers of companies are also turning to Islamic finance to raise money for expansion, ranging from steel manufacturers to luxury gift firms, which are often owned by Muslims or have Muslim shareholders. Money from wealthy Gulf investors has been pouring into Britain in recent years. There is no more potent symbol of this than the skyline of London’s financial center, known as The City.

A fund from Kuwait spent more than $600 million recently to buy the Willis Building, one of the tallest in the district, while nearly $3 billion is coming from Qatar to finance the building of what will be Europe’s tallest building, a 1,000-foot-tall structure known as the Shard of Glass.

source : csmonitor3259865949_85aa743a0e