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Monday, September 30, 2013

Emirates Islamic Bank hosts children's day out

Emirates Islamic Bank, one of the leading Islamic financial institutions in the UAE, recently hosted a special 'Back to School' day out for orphans and children from low income families in Dubai.

The participating children and families are supported by Dubai Charity and UAE Red Crescent Society. The children spent the day enjoying the various games at Dubai Sega World and testing out their acrobatic skills at the Dubai Ice Rink, followed by lunch at one of the mall's many food outlets. The event was managed with the support of volunteers from Emirates Islamic Bank, Dubai Charity and UAE Red Crescent Society and transport was provided by the Road and Transportation Authority in Dubai.

"At Emirates Islamic Bank, we are committed to making a positive impact on our local community, and this is just one of the many social initiatives we run throughout the year," Faisal Aqil, Deputy CEO-Consumer Wealth Management, Emirates Islamic Bank. "We are grateful for the blessings bestowed on our children and believe it is our duty to provide them with a sense of joy and fun. Community support is all about teamwork, and we are very grateful to Red Crescent, Dubai Charity and the Road and Transportation Authority in Dubai for all their help and support. Without their generous contribution, this day would not have been possible," he added.

Dubai Charity is a locally based charity dedicated to supporting vulnerable members of the community in Dubai through a series of fund raising activities and is especially dedicated to helping orphans from across the Emirate.

Red Crescent Society for the United Arab Emirates is the regional arm of international charity The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the world's largest humanitarian network that reaches 150 million people in 187 National Societies through the work of over 13 million volunteers.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Govt to Offer Shariah Bonds Worth $87m to Investors

Indonesia plans to sell Rp 1 trillion rupiah ($87 million) in shariah-compliant bonds next week, as part of the country’s efforts to raise funds to reduce its budget deficit.

The upcoming issue of rupiah-denominated Islamic bonds are classified as “project-based sukuk ,” the Finance Ministry said in a statement published on its website on Thursday.

It is hoped that the issue will help boost the number of foreign investors holding the country’s notes. Overseas holdings of Indonesian T-bills have declined in recent months amid massive sell-offs of the country’s assets.
 
Indonesia raised Rp 12 trillion from the sale of rupiah-denominated Treasury bonds and bills on Tuesday.

The government received a total of Rp 27.78 trillion in incoming bids for the notes, 2.3 times the amount on offer.

Bond analysts in Jakarta said such high bids reflect a strong appetite among investors for the country’s notes.

Foreign investors, who have unloaded their assets on Indonesian markets since June, are beginning to start to accumulating the country’s assets once again.

Foreign holdings of the country’s bonds have risen to Rp 289.24 trillion as of Wednesday from Rp 284.01 trillion at the end of August, according to data from the Finance Ministry. That is a decrease from a high record of Rp 302.9 trillion at the end of May.

Foreign holdings have been falling since June after the US Federal Reserve hinted at tapering its quantitative easing policy.

“The yields are quite high, so this presents an opportunity to buy. In addition, expectations of inflationary pressures going forward will ease,” Bank Danamon bond strategist Dian Ayu Yustina was quoted by Reuters as saying in Jakarta on Thursday.

The government also plans to sell bonds to retail investors on Oct. 7, the government said in a separate statement on Monday.

Individual investors must bid a minimum of Rp 5 million and a maximum of Rp 3 billion, according to Finance Ministry guidelines.

The government has been selling rupiah and dollar-denominated bonds to help reduce its budget deficit, which is estimated to reach 2.38 percent of gross domestic product this year.

Nigerian girl crowned winner of World Muslimah 2013

Jakarta: Islam is a religion of modesty and at the same time it gives required freedom to women which is totally in contrast to what is propagated against Islam and presented as myopic religion.


Jakarta: Islam is a religion of modesty and at the same time it gives required freedom to women which is totally in contrast to what is propagated against Islam and presented as myopic religion.
All false propaganda against Islam proved baseless, when a modest beauty contest was held in the capital of Nigeria last week among Muslim women and they all were covering their bodies and wearing headscarfs which is totally opposite to conventional beauty contests where women show their bodies by wearing almost no clothes.
The World Muslimah2013 beauty contest in Jakarta was won by a Nigerian girl who was wearing a headscarf and stilettos. In the contest, participants were judged not just on their looks but their ability to recite verses from the Holy Quran and their philosophy on modern-day Islam.
Nigerian winner, ObabiyiAishahAjibola, 21, dropped to her knees and thanked Almighty Allah before collecting a prize of 25 million rupiah (£1,375) and trips to Makkah and India.
She expressed, “We’re just trying to show the world that Islam is beautiful.”
The 500-plus contestants who originally competed for the crown answered a round of online questions about, among other things, their relationship with Islam, including when they first began wearing the headscarf – a requirement for the beauty pageant.
“Muslimah World” saw 20 finalists from six countries, including Bangladesh, Brunei, Iran, Malaysia, Indonesia and Nigeria, compete in a contest that has been billed as a non-violent answer to the Miss World pageant railed against by Islamic hardliners.
Thousands have protested in recent weeks against Indonesia hosting this year’s Miss World pageant, originally set in Jakarta for 28 September, but which has since been moved to the resort island of Bali, a Hindu enclave, amid public security concerns. Miss World contestants have also been banned from wearing bikinis and will instead wear sarongs in accordance with “what the public wanted”, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for people’s welfare, AngungLaksono, said.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Alizz Islamic Bank set to launch innovative Shari'a compliant banking services

Muscat, September 24th 2013 - alizz islamic bank (SAOG) is gearing up to officially launch services next week at its flagship branch located at the alizz Tower in the Central Business District (CBD). Promising to provide commercial and corporate customers an enriching banking experience designed for today's fast and modern world, the bank will offer Shari'a compliant financial products and services including a number of market firsts. 
 
Jamal Darwiche, Acting Chief Executive Officer of alizz islamic bank said, "We have taken a careful approach to gain valuable market insight and further refine our financial offerings by working closely with the Fatwa and Shari'a Supervisory Board to develop unique product and service propositions. We will offer a pure banking experience that meets the needs of today and celebrates traditional and cultural values. As Oman's newest Islamic bank, we look forward to contribute to the prosperity and development of the nation."

Over the last nine months, alizz islamic bank has centered its efforts on building human capital by employing a highly qualified cadre of professionals across all levels of the organization including several senior Omani appointments. In addition, alizz conducted a series of training sessions on central banking systems to equip staff with expert system knowledge to deliver exceptional, responsive customer service. Furthermore, the bank has utilized a specialized Oracle core banking platforms and NCR customer systems to manage operations using best of breed technology.
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 24 -- Islamic Studies teachers who equip themselves with knowledge on Information Technology (IT) will help to reinforce learning of the subject in school, said former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Abdullah, who is also Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM) chairman, said mastering IT could boost the delivery of Islamic studies as a subject.
- See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/islamic-studies-teachers-need-to-upgrade-knowledge-in-it-says-abdullah#sthash.70GDUqHW.dpuf
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 24 -- Islamic Studies teachers who equip themselves with knowledge on Information Technology (IT) will help to reinforce learning of the subject in school, said former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Abdullah, who is also Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM) chairman, said mastering IT could boost the delivery of Islamic studies as a subject.
- See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/islamic-studies-teachers-need-to-upgrade-knowledge-in-it-says-abdullah#sthash.70GDUqHW.dpuf
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 24 -- Islamic Studies teachers who equip themselves with knowledge on Information Technology (IT) will help to reinforce learning of the subject in school, said former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Abdullah, who is also Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM) chairman, said mastering IT could boost the delivery of Islamic studies as a subject.
- See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/islamic-studies-teachers-need-to-upgrade-knowledge-in-it-says-abdullah#sthash.70GDUqHW.dpuf
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 24 -- Islamic Studies teachers who equip themselves with knowledge on Information Technology (IT) will help to reinforce learning of the subject in school, said former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Abdullah, who is also Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM) chairman, said mastering IT could boost the delivery of Islamic studies as a subject.
- See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/islamic-studies-teachers-need-to-upgrade-knowledge-in-it-says-abdullah#sthash.70GDUqHW.dpuf
ssdsdKUALA LUMPUR, Sept 24 -- Islamic Studies teachers who equip themselves with knowledge on Information Technology (IT) will help to reinforce learning of the subject in school, said former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Abdullah, who is also Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM) chairman, said mastering IT could boost the delivery of Islamic studies as a subject.
- See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/islamic-studies-teachers-need-to-upgrade-knowledge-in-it-says-abdullah#sthash.70GDUqHW.dpuf
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 24 -- Islamic Studies teachers who equip themselves with knowledge on Information Technology (IT) will help to reinforce learning of the subject in school, said former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Abdullah, who is also Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM) chairman, said mastering IT could boost the delivery of Islamic studies as a subject.
- See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/islamic-studies-teachers-need-to-upgrade-knowledge-in-it-says-abdullah#sthash.70GDUqHW.dpuf
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 24 -- Islamic Studies teachers who equip themselves with knowledge on Information Technology (IT) will help to reinforce learning of the subject in school, said former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Abdullah, who is also Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM) chairman, said mastering IT could boost the delivery of Islamic studies as a subject.
“Looking at the diverse background of students and the progress of the IT field today, teachers need to be given suitable training and courses organised by the Education Ministry and relevant organisations.  “This is a proactive move to help our teachers improve the quality of their delivery and make IT knowledge as an aid in presenting the subject in class,” he said after launching a seminar titled ‘Pemerkasaan Pengajaran Agama Islam di Malaysia: Menilai Cabaran Semasa Guru Pendidikan Islam’ at IKIM, here today.
Also present was IKIM director-general Datuk Nik Mustapha Nik Hassan and 250 Islamic Studies teachers from primary and secondary schools nationwide.—Bernama
- See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/islamic-studies-teachers-need-to-upgrade-knowledge-in-it-says-abdullah#sthash.70GDUqHW.dpuf
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 24 -- Islamic Studies teachers who equip themselves with knowledge on Information Technology (IT) will help to reinforce learning of the subject in school, said former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Abdullah, who is also Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM) chairman, said mastering IT could boost the delivery of Islamic studies as a subject.
“Looking at the diverse background of students and the progress of the IT field today, teachers need to be given suitable training and courses organised by the Education Ministry and relevant organisations.  “This is a proactive move to help our teachers improve the quality of their delivery and make IT knowledge as an aid in presenting the subject in class,” he said after launching a seminar titled ‘Pemerkasaan Pengajaran Agama Islam di Malaysia: Menilai Cabaran Semasa Guru Pendidikan Islam’ at IKIM, here today.
Also present was IKIM director-general Datuk Nik Mustapha Nik Hassan and 250 Islamic Studies teachers from primary and secondary schools nationwide.—Bernama
- See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/islamic-studies-teachers-need-to-upgrade-knowledge-in-it-says-abdullah#sthash.70GDUqHW.dpuf
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 24 -- Islamic Studies teachers who equip themselves with knowledge on Information Technology (IT) will help to reinforce learning of the subject in school, said former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Abdullah, who is also Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM) chairman, said mastering IT could boost the delivery of Islamic studies as a subject.
“Looking at the diverse background of students and the progress of the IT field today, teachers need to be given suitable training and courses organised by the Education Ministry and relevant organisations.  “This is a proactive move to help our teachers improve the quality of their delivery and make IT knowledge as an aid in presenting the subject in class,” he said after launching a seminar titled ‘Pemerkasaan Pengajaran Agama Islam di Malaysia: Menilai Cabaran Semasa Guru Pendidikan Islam’ at IKIM, here today.
Also present was IKIM director-general Datuk Nik Mustapha Nik Hassan and 250 Islamic Studies teachers from primary and secondary schools nationwide.—Bernama
- See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/islamic-studies-teachers-need-to-upgrade-knowledge-in-it-says-abdullah#sthash.70GDUqHW.dpuf
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 24 -- Islamic Studies teachers who equip themselves with knowledge on Information Technology (IT) will help to reinforce learning of the subject in school, said former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Abdullah, who is also Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM) chairman, said mastering IT could boost the delivery of Islamic studies as a subject.
“Looking at the diverse background of students and the progress of the IT field today, teachers need to be given suitable training and courses organised by the Education Ministry and relevant organisations.  “This is a proactive move to help our teachers improve the quality of their delivery and make IT knowledge as an aid in presenting the subject in class,” he said after launching a seminar titled ‘Pemerkasaan Pengajaran Agama Islam di Malaysia: Menilai Cabaran Semasa Guru Pendidikan Islam’ at IKIM, here today.
Also present was IKIM director-general Datuk Nik Mustapha Nik Hassan and 250 Islamic Studies teachers from primary and secondary schools nationwide.—Bernama
- See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/islamic-studies-teachers-need-to-upgrade-knowledge-in-it-says-abdullah#sthash.70GDUqHW.dpuf

Monday, September 23, 2013

Affin Islamic launches the Hajj savings account

KUALA LUMPUR: Affin Islamic Bank Bhd is offering a new product which enables Muslims to save for their plan to perform the Hajj in Mecca.

The product, the Affin Impian Haji Savings Account-i, is a new structured savings plan that comes with Takaful protection, it said in a statement today.

The product is based on the Shariah concept of "Mudharabah", where profit sharing ratios are pre-determined and mutually agreed between the customer and the bank at the onset of the investment.

It offers flexibility to customers via a choice of three types of savings plan with tenures of five, ten or 15 years, and a wide range of deposit amounts from as low as RM167 per month.

"With AFFIN Impian Haji Savings Account-i, Muslim customers can choose a savings plan that will best suit their budget and preferred timeframe," the bank said.

The product also provides Takaful protection from Syarikat Takaful Malaysia Bhd for the customer with coverage upon death or total permanent disability and the provision of funeral benefits. -- Bernama

Malaysia wants Islamic finance industry to ‘look West’

PETALING JAYA: With the backing of Maybank Islamic Bhd, the World Islamic Economic Foundation (WIEF) is working together with the Greater London Authority to boost trade and investment between Malaysia, the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) and the UK.
The idea is based on the consensus of using Islamic finance as the platform for the transactions that will involve Malaysian investors and businesses in their efforts to diversify their portfolios into the UK, particularly in London, Maybank Islamic chief executive officer Muzaffar Hisham said last week in Kuala Lumpur.

“There is an increasing interest by Malaysian investors in diversifying their investment portfolios into the UK and particularly London. Maybank Islamic is well placed to encourage such opportunities”, Muzaffar said.

Muzaffar emphasised on the strategic importance of Islamic Finance for London as an opportunity to tap into a new source of capital, assets and liquidity in Islamic markets for London’s future growth and global ambitions.

Muzaffar has not only encouraged sovereigns but also UK corporate firms that are wishing to issue funds to consider Shariah-compliant instruments as they expand to new frontiers, especially in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Asean/Malaysia.
“The deal will most probably be announced during the 9th WIEF in London in October,” Muzaffar told reporters after the soft launch of its new retail mortgage product at the WIEF headquarter in Kuala Lumpur.

Maybank Islamic has recently secured pound sterling cross border financing, making it the first Malaysian bank to have such financing instruments in London, Bernama reported.
Also present during the event were deputy mayor of London Sir Edward Lister and WIEF managing director Syed Abu Bakar Almohdzar, who both reiterated the importance of boosting trade, investments and business between Malaysia, Asean and London through Islamic Finance.
“Developing trade and investment links with Malaysia is a key priority for London and Maybank’s initiative significantly broadens the range of Shariah-compliant investment opportunities. Hosting the world,” Lister said.

The WIEF will showcase London’s role as the leading Western hub for Islamic Finance and lay the foundation for strengthening our bond with the Islamic world, Lister added.

London has taken proactive measures to grow Islamic Finance in an attempt to attract more investment from the Middle East and other Muslim countries in the Asean region, believing these are essential to further boost London’s standing as an important centre for the industry.

There is a growing appetite for Shariah-compliant investments in London as it grows in Malaysia and Asean, the Maybank Islamic feels that it is well placed to bridge prospective clients in facilitating their aspirations.

In addition, Maybank Islamic is also actively expanding its foreign currency business in the retail banking space.

The bank is in the final stage of launching an Islamic foreign currency property financing product for London properties due to be launched in fourthquarter of 2013.

On the other hand, Syed Abu Bakar said Malaysia will continue to play a leading role in Islamic finance, through the WIEF, with London as a new global centerpoint.

“As Malaysia continues to play a leading role in Islamic finance, the World Islamic Economic Forum continues to be a strong advocate of Islamic Finance in Muslim and non-Muslim communities around the world,” Syed Abu Bakar said.

He also said that with London being an increasingly influential driver of Islamic trade, there are greater opportunities to develop Islamic economy at the forthcoming 9th WIEF in London this Oct 29-31, 2013”

Friday, September 20, 2013

Islamic Finance: London Eyes Becoming Western Capital of Sharia-Compliant Banking

London is vying to be the capital of Islamic finance outside of the Muslim world, says the city's Deputy Mayor Sir Edward Lister.

A task force on building the UK's Islamic finance industry has been at work since early 2013 and London will host the World Islamic Economic Forum in October.
"The task force has just started and its aim is to make it easier for banks in London to have Islamic products, which is still quite a new concept to any of them," Lister told a press conference, reported Reuters.

"Only now people are beginning to understand what the products actually mean and how they comply ... What you will see is a lot of companies introducing those products."
Globally, the Islamic finance industry is forecast to be worth $2.6tn (€1.9bn, £1.6bn) by 2017. It has grown by around 30% each year since the millennium and consultancy firm Oliver Wyman predicts that there will need to be at least 150 Islamic finance institutions by 2020 to meet the ever-growing demand.

There are more than 20 UK banks offering Sharia-compliant products, such as HSBC and RBS. There are also three Sharia-only institutions, including the Islamic Bank of Britain (IBB).
By increasing the number of Sharia-compliant financial services in London it will be easier to facilitate investment in the UK from Islamic investors.

What is Islamic banking?

According to IBB's website: "Islamic banking operates without interest which is not permitted in Islam, as money in itself is not considered to have intrinsic value.
"As interest is income generated from money, it is seen as effortless return. Instead money must be used in a productive way and wealth can only be generated through legitimate trade and investment, which involves an element of risk.

"Islamic banking therefore uses various principles recognised as Sharia compliant such as Ijara (leasing), Musharaka (partnership) and Wakala (agency agreement). Islamic banks use these principles to develop Sharia compliant financial products, such as savings accounts and home finance, which allow Muslims to conduct their finances in an Islamic way."

source :  http://www.ibtimes.co.uk

Islamic Development Bank opens office in Ankara

Islamic Development Bank (IDB) opened its Turkish office in Ankara with the participation of Turkish President Abdullah Gül and Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Gül said “Since the beginning, Turkey has been among the most important partners of IKB. On the other hand, Turkey is also one of the countries to benefit from the advantages of the bank very well. Turkey has that capacity. Sometimes you cannot find a place to put the funds to good use. Turkey has become stronger especially with the economic reforms which were enforced for the last ten years,” adding that the Islamic Development Bank has paved the way for interest-free financial institutions to gain recognition in the world.

President Gül has also mentioned about the years he worked for the IKB as a finance analyst between 1983 and 1991, describing those days as “the calmest days for my family.”
IDB Group President Ahmad Mohamed Ali expressed his gratitude about the opening of the Turkish office and said the increasing importance of Turkey’s role in the world has been considered in taking this decision.

Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan pointed out Turkey is a shareholder as well as a finance-user of the IKB, “It has been understood with the global economic crisis that interest-free banking system gave secure and stable results compare to interest banking."

source :  http://www.worldbulletin.net

Thursday, September 19, 2013

UK demands banks to introduce Islamic-compliant services


 
 
Britain is demanding its banks to introduce services compliant with the Islamic law in a bid to make London the major western player in an international Islamic finance sector expected to be worth $2.6 trillion by 2017.

The objective is putting up a challenge to Dubai and Kuala Lumpur, which are currently two key hubs of Islamic banking in a bid to boost London’s status in the world of financial services.

"We want to be the leading (Islamic) finance sector outside of the Muslim world," deputy mayor of London Edward Lister said in a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.

Britain established its Islamic finance task force in March with the participation of several ministers and banking industry heavyweights as well as top executives from Gatehouse Bank and Oakstone Merchant Bank Ltd.

The move, aimed at facilitating Islamic financial business, was a prelude to London’s hosting of the World Islamic Economic Forum in October.

"The task force has just started and its aim is to make it easier for banks in London to have Islamic products, which is still quite a new concept to any of them," Lister said.

There are currently 22 financial institutions active in Britain, including five fully sharia-compliant banks.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Maybank Islamic Secures Pound Cross-border Financing

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 18 (Bernama) -- Maybank Islamic Bhd recently secured Pound Sterlling cross-border financing, making it the first Malaysian bank to have such financing instruments in London.

Its Chief Executive Officer Muzaffar Hisham said the bank has been appointed by its corporate client as the jointly led arranger for the purpose of buying properties in London.

"The deal will most probably be announced during the ninth World Islamic Economic Forum in London in October," he told reporters after the soft launch of its new retail mortgage product here Wednesday.

He said the bank is in the final stages of launching the Islamic foreign currency property financing product for London properties, expected in the fourth quarter this year.

"There is increasing interest by Malaysian investors in diversifying their investment portfolios into the United Kingdom and particularly London, and Maybank Islamic is well placed to encourage such opportunities," he said.

Muzaffar stressed the strategic importance of Islamic finance in London as an opportunity to tap into a new source of capital, assets and liquidity in Islamic markets for London's future growth and global ambitions.

He said UK corporates wishing to issue funds should also consider Shariah-compliant instruments as they expand to new frontiers, especially in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and ASEAN/Malaysia.

Western banks eye Islamic trade finance

JEDDAH – Islamic trade finance, a tiny part of global banking business, is starting to attract interest among big Western banks because of rapid growth of trade involving wealthy Gulf economies, bankers said on Tuesday.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch hopes to begin offering Islamic trade financing in the future, Chris Jameson, the bank's regional head of sales for global transaction services, said without giving a time frame.

"Our focus will be on Middle Eastern clients who are expanding their footprint internationally," Jameson said on the sidelines of a banking conference in Dubai.

"You can see that local banks are setting up Islamic units to cater for the needs of their clients. This is driving more and more international institutions to focus on the Islamic sector."

Islamic trade finance, which uses instruments that obey sharia principles such as Islam's ban on interest, has remained a backwater even as other areas of Islamic business, such as sukuk issuance, have boomed in the last few years.

This is partly because Islamic banks are relatively small and lack the expertise and large international networks of mainstream Western banks.

Foreign trade conducted by the 57 member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation totaled $3.9 trillion in 2011. But only a tiny fraction was financed in a sharia-compliant way; the Saudi Arabia-based International Islamic Trade Finance Corp, which promotes Islamic trade, approved transactions worth just $3 billion in 2011.

There are signs that this is changing, however, as trade flows between the Gulf and Asia – including predominantly Muslim countries in southeast Asia – become large enough to support specialist trade financing operations.

Trade between the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries and emerging Asia economies is growing at 30 percent annually, according to Kuwait-based Asiya Investments, which launched an Islamic trade finance fund with $20 million in seed capital last December.

Some Islamic banks in the Gulf are trying to expand in sharia-compliant trade finance through tie-ups with Western institutions; this week Dubai Islamic Bank said it would use Deutsche Bank's expertise to facilitate its letters of credit in Europe.

Dubai's oldest and largest Islamic bank hopes to serve local companies which are increasingly looking abroad for business, chief executive Adnan Chilwan said in a statement.

"In this regard, trade flows have become a critical component of this growth as has the provision of trade finance activities for businesses," he said.

Bank of America could opt for a strategic partner as well, Jameson said. "We would consider that – that's the model we have followed to date on cash management and trade. We can leverage the local expertise that they already have."

Haytham El Maayergi, head of transaction banking in the United Arab Emirates for Standard Chartered Bank , which provides Islamic services, said he was seeing demand for Islamic trade finance that was partly due to the convenience of its structures, not just just its religious permissibility.

Islamic finance deals are backed by income from real assets, providing a layer of security which is attractive for many exporters of goods.

"A lot of Islamic structures are more appealing to clients not only because these clients are sharia-compliant, but also these structures are suitable for their business models. Clients want the ownership structure, less risky transactions and the ethical proposition that Islamic trade financing provides."

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Global summit to focus on Islamic finance, halal industries

Global Islamic Economy Summit, the first forum that brings together the Islamic finance and halal industries, will be held at the Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai on Nov. 25.

The two-day forum will discuss the evolving Islamic economic landscape and the implications for the 57 Muslim countries around the world. The summit will also talk about how the Islamic finance and halal industries can push beyond the Muslim world to benefit from and participate in the global economy.

Organized by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Thomson Reuters, the conference will open with a keynote speech addressing Dubai’s potential to play a constructive role to develop the Islamic economies around the world.

“Dubai’s ability to bring together key decision-makers and stakeholders is indicative of its ability to act as a bridge between the East and West; Muslim and non-Muslim; business and consumer,” Abdul Rahman Saif Al-Ghurair, chairman of Dubai chamber, said in a statement related to the event.

“The Islamic Economy is emerging as a new paradigm that will be driving economic growth over the coming decade. Bringing together diverse elements across various industry sectors, spanning geographic regions and crossing cultural boundaries, this inaugural summit will be the defining event for Thomson Reuters and Dubai,” said Russell Haworth, MD, MENA, Thomson Reuters.

The summit is in line with the launch of Dubai: Capital of Islamic Economy by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, and is held with his support. The event will culminate with a senior-level panel discussing Sheikh Mohammed’s Islamic economy vision, specifically looking at the role of governments and the private sector to facilitate development of the Islamic economic sectors.

The Museum of Islamic Art

Despite the claim that the Egyptian museum of Islamic arts is the largest museum of its kind in the world, it is relatively small. The museum was closed in 2003 for renovation  and reopened in 2010. Eight years of hard work, and eight million dollars later, an extraordinary result emerged, which proved to be well worth the wait.

It is made up of one large floor, but has more than enough exhibits for two to three hours of interesting viewing. The museum was designed with an urbanely neat setting in mind. In addition to the very high quality exhibits on display, the design makes use of natural light to illuminate the displays. Therefore, it provides a much more comfortable experience than that of the Egyptian Museum. All the exhibits have Arabic and English labels and some of them also have French descriptions. The information in English is very informative, but some of the Arabic ones provide more data and details. However, the printing and typography used are of a high quality.

Once you enter the museum, your eyes will first meet with a  large copy of the Holy Quran, which is claimed to contain the earliest recorded example of the use of vowels and consonants. It belongs to the Umayyad dynasty.

The right wing of the museum houses many artifacts, which are displayed according to their different Islamic periods; Umayyad, Abbasid, Fatimid, Ayyubid, Mamluk, and Ottoman dynasties.
It has a wide array of different intact pieces, ranging from wood panels, to gold dinars to ceramic dishes. There is beautiful jewelry, ivory and bone figurines, boxes, whole doors, mihrabs, and minbars from different mosques. Moreover, every section has its own large fountain and lanterns.
Some people find Islamic art repetitive and boring, but this museum proves otherwise. After browsing the museum for some time, one is astounded by the details of the artifacts. It becomes easy to distinguish the differences between the designs from the different dynasties and track the evolution of art through time.

The left wing of the museum is somehow different, and to me, seems even more interesting. In addition to Egyptian Islamic art, it holds both Persian and Turkish artifacts. The miscellaneous pieces of this section are classified according to different themes: medicine, science, calligraphy, textile, funerary arts, colors and lights.

Among the collection are surgical instruments, measuring cups to gauge medical liquids, scales, sand clocks, astrolabes, compasses for pointing out the direction of the Ka’ba to help Muslims pray, bottles for perfumes, Persian carpets,  copies of the Quran from different countries, tombstones, funerary columns, and many more.

It is disappointing that photography is prohibited inside the museum since there are so many things that are worth documenting. I also expected to see a small gift shop by the museum that sells books and souvenirs, but was disappointed to find none. Given that photography is not allowed, it would have been great to be able to purchase postcards of the artifacts and souvenirs to remember the trip, and which could be a way for the museum to generate revenue. The museum has to be among the top ten places to see while visiting or staying in Cairo. It gives a uniquely poignant aesthetic experience.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Global Islamic Microfinance Forum ready to set new standards

The Global Islamic Microfinance Forum on Islamic Microfinance is going to be held in U.A.E on 6th October, 2013 in which the delegates of more than 30 countries are expected.

The purpose of Forum is to introduce Islamic Microfinance in the global canvas as an effective tool for poverty alleviation and Social development, to set its standards, to develop Islamic Microfinance internationally and to have dialogue with International Donor/Development agencies for sustainable development.

Two days specialized workshop is being arranged after the forum in which the Shari'ah standards and marketing strategies to develop, operate and sustain Islamic Microfinance Institutions will be discussed. It should be noted that this forum is being jointly arranged by AlHuda Centre of Islamic Banking and Economics (CIBE) and Akhuwat. Akhuwat is a Pakistan based institute which has distributed $47.65m amongst 300,000 families via Islamic Microfinance.

Executive Director of Akhuwat, Mr. Amjad Saqib said that through this Forum, Islamic Microfinance will be introduced as a sustainable system around the world so that Islamic Microfinance could be properly utilized in order to take the world out of the darkness of poverty.

While briefing about the purpose and aims of this Forum, Chief Executive Officer of AlHuda Centre of Islamic Banking and Economics, Mr. Muhammad Zubair Mughal, said that poverty is going up due to the failure of present microfinance system whereas in order to solve this problem, whole world is looking towards Islamic Microfinance.

He said that if Islamic Microfinance is not included in the strategies for alleviating poverty then the achievement of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of United Nations would become so difficult because Muslims are 46% of World's total poverty and United Nations has added 26 countries from the 57 Countries of OIC among the Least Developed Countries. So, Islamic Microfinance is mandatory in order to alleviate poverty from the Muslim Countries because Muslims avoid Conventional Microfinance due to the factor of interest, as Interest is strictly prohibited in Islamic that is way Interest is an important reason for the poverty in Muslim Countries.

He also added that current facts and figures, as per the latest report of poverty reduction in India, China and other countries, are showing that poverty in Muslim countries is increasing day by day while in non Muslim countries it is decreasing constantly. It is worth to mentioning that Islamic Microfinance is a system, it is not a religion rather it can be utilized/operated by both Muslims and Non-Muslims for social development & poverty alleviation.

He further said that now the time has come that the International Organizations like UN, ADB, IFC, USAID, GIZ, DIFD, and IFAD etc. have to play their role to alleviate poverty from the world by including Islamic Microfinance in the strategies to reduce poverty.

He said that Islamic Microfinance has more characteristics to alleviate poverty in comparison with Conventional Microfinance and it can be easily integrated with all the models of Microfinance like Grameen Model, Village Banking Model, Co-operative Model and Self Help Group Model etc. So in order to introduce Islamic Microfinance in the world, very fewer changes would be needed to make in Microfinance industry.

He also added that in Global Forum the Islamic Microfinance related models i.e. Qarz-e-Hasana, Waqf, Islamic Commercial Microfinance, Zakat, BMT's and some other Islamic approaches to alleviate poverty will be discussed in detail.

Forum shall last for 3 days in Dubai, at the end of which, a declaration will be issued while Dr. Fatima Mohammed Yousif Al-Balooshi (Minister of Social Development Kingdom of Bahrain) will be the Guest of Honor of the Forum and with some other distinguished speakers such as: Mufti Barkatulla (Shariah Advisor- Islamic Bank of Britain), Mr. Mohammed Kroessin (Global Microfinance Advisor - IRF World Wide, UK), Dr. Ajaz Ahmed Khan (Microfinance Advisor - Care International, UK), Mr. Zaigham Mehmood Rizvi (Renowned International Expert of Islamic Banking and Housing Finance - Washington, USA), Mr. Zeinoul Abedien Cajee (Founding CEO/Management Board - National Awqaf Foundation of South Africa), Mr. Mahesh (CEO - Umex Securities, UK), Mr. Saleem Ranjha (Director Akhuwat, Pakistan), Mufti Aziz Ur Rehman (Manager Shariah - Mawarid Finance, Dubai), Ms. Thamina Anwar (Founder and CEO Awqaf New Zealand), Mr. Atef Ebrahim (CEO - Family Bank, Bahrain), Mr. Mohamed El Mehdi Zidani (Director Baraka Editions, France), Justice Retired Khalil Ur Rehman (Shariah Advisor - AlBaraka Islamic Bank, Chairman Punjab Halal Development Agency, Government of Pakistan) and some Industry Specialists and Researchers from 15 countries will add value to the event with their participation.

Russia welcomes Islamic finance

The Tatarstan Investment Development Agency (TIDA), in conjunction with the Thomson Reuters Agency, has developed a five-year plan for the creation of a Regional Center for Islamic Finance of Russia and the CIS in Kazan. According to estimates developed by Thomson Reuters, the CIS countries during this period may raise about $28 billion in investments from Malaysia and countries of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (CCASG). To co-ordinate the financial flows, the developers plan to create a regional regulatory bank in Kazan.

According to the press-service of TIDA: “The main objective of the project is to stimulate the development of Islamic finance in the Russian Federation, by providing an alternative to traditional banks, not just for the Muslim population, but also for people of other faiths. The experience of the UK has already shown this, as 70% of borrowers of funds from Islamic banks are non-Muslims. Moreover, Islamic financial instruments are a means of attracting investments from Muslim countries. This is not a matter of investments into industry, but rather of attracting financial flows through financial institutions.”

According to the proposed plan, the creation of the center will require $11 million in investments into educational, counseling, methodological and other programs. Project ideologists have not yet named their sources of funding.

It is quite clear why Kazan has been chosen as the hub for Islamic investments. Tatarstan has accumulated considerable experience in international projects and contacts with investors from Muslim countries. Kazan has repeatedly hosted major international events, devoted to Islamic business and finance. Support and widening of investments will be one of the key issues at the upcoming 5th International Economic Summit of Russia and the countries of the OIC, which will be held in the capital of Tatarstan in October of this year.

According to the experts, Islamic investors are showing interest in Russia both due to economic and geopolitical factors. Alberto Brugnoni, chairman of the Italian non-profit organization ASSAIF, says: “Muslim investors simply cannot ignore Russia due to its huge size, raw material resources, the size of its Muslim population and its proximity to several strategic Muslim countries in Central Asia.”
“According to various estimates, the potential size of the retail market of Islamic finance in Russia ranges from a modest 10% of the total number of religious Muslims to the entire Muslim population (10–15% of the population of Russia as of today, which is forecasted to reach 30% by 2050).

Muslims returning to their religion, and experiencing a growing desire to live and work in accordance with Islam, is sure to give impetus to Islamic financial instruments,” adds Mr. Brugnoni.

However, some experts are not convinced that all the ambitious plans of the Kazan center will be implemented. According to Alexander Akimov, head of the Department of Economic Research of the Institute of Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, the idea of ​​establishing a center for Islamic finance is not new, it emerged five years ago, but was never been developed. He does not rule out the possibility that Islamic finances will simply purchase existing assets, instead of creating new projects.
 
As for the areas of investment, according to the experts, it will be the real sector; primarily this will be infrastructure and oil refining. “Islamic finance is closely linked to the real sector of the economy. It has been estimated that Russia needs more than $1 trillion of investments into infrastructure over the next 10 years, and Islamic finance fits perfectly well into these volumes,” says Mr. Brugnoni. According to Mr. Akimov, investments into agriculture may be attractive to Islamic partners, for example, in the Volga Region, where they can participate in small inexpensive projects.

However, this plan may face some legal challenges. “First of all, lending in Russian banks is based on the principle of serviceability, maturity and repayment. Serviceability implies payment of accrued interest on a loan, which according to Islamic law, is forbidden for financial institutions and individuals. In addition, one of the instruments of Islamic banking is the so-called “Murabaha”– a contract for the sale of goods between a seller and buyer at an agreed price, which also indicates the amount of the profit or markup. This form of transaction is prohibited by Russian law. As long as the law does not change to allow for Islamic banking and financial products, consumers will have to use investment and leasing tools,” said the press service of TIDA. Business can become the driving force for stimulating changes in the law, but so far, it has not displayed the proper degree of activity.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Oman to take part in London Islamic economic forum

MUSCAT -- Oman's efforts to grow its nascent Islamic banking and finance industry will be highlighted at a global forum due to held in London next month. Top political figures from around the world will address the 9th World Islamic Economic Forum, which will take place in London during October 29-31, 2013. Hamood Sangour al Zadjali, Executive President of the Central Bank of Oman (CBO), will speak about the Sultanate's initial successes in rolling out sharia-compliant banking services at this prestigious event. Underscoring the importance of the forum, a number of international leaders figure on a high-profile line-up of speakers who will address the forum. 

The list includes Mohammed Najib Tun Abdul Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia; David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Sultan of Brunei Darussalam; Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister of Pakistan; Prince Salman bin Hamad al Khalifa, Crown Prince of Bahrain; Bakir Izetbegovic, Member of Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina; AtifeteJahjaga, President of Kosovo; Craig Cannonier, Premier of Bermuda; Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, former Prime Minister of Malaysia; Boris Johnson, Mayor of London; Dr ZetiAkhtar Aziz, Governor, Central Bank of Malaysia; and Abdulla Mohammed Saleh, Governor, Dubai International Financial Centre.


"The forthcoming 9th WIEF will be a great opportunity to build bridges towards peace and prosperity between the Muslim and non-Muslim world through the common language of business. The WIEF will showcase the very best that the Islamic world has to offer as a lucrative trade and investment hub," Musa Hitam, former deputy PM of Malaysia and present Chairman of the WIFE, said in a statement. The forum has run since 2004 and has been a strong advocate of Islamic finance in Muslim and non-Muslim communities around the world. It aims to also package the Muslim world as a lucrative trade and investment caucus that is able to attract foreign investors and business partners from various countries worldwide. The meeting will also enable networking and foster strategic alliances through the exchange of ideas, information and knowledge. Entitled 'Changing World, New Relationships', the 9th WIEF takes place for the first time outside the Muslim world. In addition to helping communities in need and supporting big and small companies, entrepreneurs and start-ups, the forum is committed to encapsulate the emergence of new economic linkages between nations across borders, religions and cultures in a fast changing world.

Is Islamic Law Applicable today?

An of-repeated notion by some liberals, and self-styled secular intellectuals, is the assertion that the demand of Islamic State today which would implement Islamic law, is a reactionary stance.

They deduce that the demand for Political Islam, is merely an emotional outburst, which originated out of colonialism. As such they assert that Islamic law and the Caliphate state model which originated in 7th Century Mecca, lacks the practicality to be setup again in the modern society, and its changed variables. For example: the incompatibility between its punishments as compared to the international law, and its economic prohibitions being incoherent with the global economic model etc. Some Liberals, refer the call for return of Islamic State as altogether a modern ‘Innovation’.

However, the weakness of this notion is revealed upon a rational study of the history. The irony of this notion is: Today the very thought of questioning the applicability of Islamic Law in every place and time is itself a modern innovation, produced as a result of Colonialism.

A famous Scholar, Sheikh Mohammad al-Khidr Hussein (head of al-Azhar 1952-4) refuted this assertion by the Secularist in his work “The Islamic Sharia is applicable to every time and place”
Evaluating the opinions of the Scholars, throughout the timeline clearly reveals, as Hussein writes “Before the recent Western colonial invasion of Arab lands and the Islamic world, not one of the scholars of Islam occupied himself defending Islamic law, and neither did anyone write to prove they are valid for every time and place – It was an instinctive part of Muslim thinking and the Islamic way of life, and was rooted in the reality, its application tested (and proven) over centuries of history”.

This holds valid as much in the distant history as it is to the recent pre-colonial history. In addition to these even western non-Muslims scholars and authors (even the critics) viewed the Muslim civilization as one where the legislation, law, governance and state apparatus were all formulated based on the Religion of Islam. In 1877 Edward A. Freeman in his Book “The Ottoman Power in Europe” wrote: “The successor of the Prophet, the Caliph, is Pope and Emperor in one. In the Mohommetan system there is no distinction between Church and State, no distinction between religious and civil duty. Every action of a good Mussulman is not only done from religious motive, but is done directly as a religious act.”.

Therefore today, the Secularists and Liberals who assert that Islam is pluralistic in its approach, compatible with the idea of separation of ‘Church and State’ and in harmony with the idea of democracy, are in fact intellectually isolated in terms of their assertions. Their argument lacks credibility, due to the absence of even a reasonable number of citation from Scholars of Islam and Scholars of other faith, who have written on history of Islamic civilization. A sincere review of these assertions by the Secularists may well lead to a change in their opinion and an appreciation of the facts in history; thereby it will enable a better understanding between them and those who view Politics as an integral part of Islam.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Challenges for Islamic finance

Islamic finance organisations must become more competitive to cope with increased demand globally, according to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report published in advance of the ninth World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) in London next month.
"Islamic finance institutions are relatively small and need to step up to the plate," Ashruff Jamall, the author of Islamic Finance - Creating Value and the global Islamic finance leader at PwC in Dubai, said at a media briefing previewing the forum.

The world's Islamic population is projected to grow by 35 per cent by 2030, fuelling demand for Islamic financial products, according to figures cited by PwC.
This market is expected to double to US$2.6 trillion by 2017.

While Islamic products hold appeal for Muslims and other ethical investors, their higher costs and lower returns dent this.

Islamic banks in the Arabian Gulf region provided a 7.1 per cent return on equity from 2006 to 2011, compared with the 14.6 per cent return provided by conventional banks.

Greater customer focus, better operational efficiency and improved governance structures - such as the independence of Sharia boards - are among the challenges that must be addressed, PwC said.
The ninth WIEF is to be held in a non-Muslim country for the first time.

London fought off competition from Russia and Canada to secure the event, according to the WIEF chairman Tun Musa Hitam.

London has the largest Islamic banking sector outside the Middle East and Asia, with 22 banks that are Sharia-compliant or offer Sharia products.

London's bid to host the event was backed by the UK prime minister David Cameron, who will attend the event along with other world leaders including the prime ministers of Malaysia, Pakistan and Morocco, the Crown Prince of Bahrain and the Sultan of Brunei.

"After eight years we can say we have arrived," Tun Musa said. "For the first time we are venturing outside the Muslim world."

A total of 1,500 delegates from business, government and academia are expected to attend the October 29-31 conference.

Harnessing the potential of women as drivers of growth, harmonising Islamic and western banking, and micro finance and start-ups are among the discussion topics.
Workshops, roundtables, panel sessions and networking events will be held at the UK government's British Business Pavilion to showcase the country's offering to the Islamic world.

World Islamic Economic Forum takes place in London

Dubai set the stage for the upcoming ninth World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) in London as senior dignitaries came together on Monday to share their thoughts on the opportunities and challenges of Islamic finance and business reaching out to both the Muslim and non-Muslim world.
“[Islamic finance] is a work in progress,” said Tun Musa Hitam, chairman of WIEF Foundation, adding that after eight years of hosting the forum in Muslim countries of Asia, they decided to choose London as the venue in an effort to build bridges of peace and prosperity between the two worlds through the common language of business.
While reaching out to other Muslim countries, such as the UAE, Hitam said that competitiveness amongst them is “good” in terms of sharing and learning from each other’s achievements and performance.
“Dubai’s ambition and wish to be the centre of Islamic finance is part of that competition,” said Hitam and he welcomed it. Earlier this year, Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, had announced to make Dubai a centre of the global Islamic economy and finance industry.
Dominic Jermey, Britain’s ambassador to the UAE, said they were delighted and honoured that London is going to be the venue of the ninth WIFE. We see Islamic Finance as potentially a platform to boost trade opportunities and explore wider themes of smart economies and smart societies,” Jermey said at the media briefing.
The conference will be held between October 29-31 at Excel London, which is owned and operated by Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (ADNEC).

Monday, September 9, 2013

Giving context to Islamic art

THE worldwide excitement that accompanies Aidilfitri isn’t always accompanied by commensurate Islamic art activity.

This year, it looks as if the artistry of the Raya greeting card is going to be the visual highlight of the season in Malaysia. The prospects overseas are not much brighter, although there is one surprising new arrival from the US.

After enduring a decade of being accused of anti-Islamic bias, the Metropolitan Museum of Art came through with its reputation enhanced two years ago. The museum was forgiven for its post-9/11 closure of its Islamic art galleries, which came to be accepted as a coincidence instead of a calculated insult.

To reignite some of the enthusiasm of 2011, when the galleries were reopened, the Met is presenting an exhibition called Fifty Years Of Collecting Islamic Art.

Half a century is a bit of an understatement for an institution that was collecting well before 1900. However, it was in 1963 that a Department of Islamic Art was established as a separate entity.
The name of the department has remained the same, and there are many who wish that the galleries had maintained this simple approach rather than being reborn as the “Art of the Arab lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia”.

The story behind the collection is as fascinating as the contents. It may not be as large or as old as some, such as the Louvre’s, but it has a celebrity edge that gives it more modern immediacy than the greyer, more academic recent history of its French counterpart.

The exhibition is more about display than artefacts and until the recent makeover at the Louvre, this was an area in which the Americans has been rather superior to the French. The problem for the Met was not so much how to make the display look interesting as how to make a coherent story out of works from different parts of the Islamic world.

The initial answer was not to try at all. Going back to the 1880s, Islamic Persian tiles were placed in different galleries, rubbing shoulders with Chinese and Japanese ceramics in one room, and with Greek and Phoenician ceramics in another. The situation changed when collectors with strong views on display left bequests to the Met with precise requests on how they wanted their treasures to be viewed. One of the greatest donors was Edward C. Moore. Being the artistic director of Tiffany had not only given him an eye for Islamic art but also for the different type of shop window provided by the Met’s galleries. Moore insisted on his works being shown in the thoughtful manner in which he had collected them, which meant creating some order out of the earlier aesthetic chaos.

America at the turn of the 20th Century was filled with collectors who admired a wide variety of material. One of the greatest benefactors of the Met was Benjamin Altman, a leading New York retailer. Like so many collectors of Islamic art, he was a Jew with tastes that included objects as different as medieval Christian religious paintings and 18th Century furniture. His name is not well known today nor was it a household name then, as he had a strong aversion to publicity. New York newspapers had trouble in finding a photo of him when he died. The New York Times called him “the most retiring man in the city”.

The exhibition at the Met does a useful job in showing how recent the scholarship of Islamic art is. There were connoisseurs aplenty in the 19th Century and even earlier if one counts the European royalty who admired works from the Islamic world while thinking they came from just about anywhere else.

In the early 20th Century, there were no real academic authorities on Islamic art in America or Europe. Dealers were the main source of information. They were certainly not Indiana Jones but they did take an interest in the original excavation settings of the works they sold.

Curators with a more academic inclination emerged from the collecting capitalism of the early 20th Century, setting the Met on a scholarly path from which it has never deviated. The latest exhibition also shows some of the experiments that curators were prepared to make a hundred years ago. Some of these would not be repeated today, when the vigilant eye of the conservator is constantly upon the curator. In 1919, the exhibition Plant Form In Ornament featured numerous Islamic works surrounded by the sorts of living plants that had inspired them.

This exhibition was a huge success, generating some excitement for Islamic works. When it was repeated in 1933, much of the clutter had gone but the natural element remained, including a pond stocked with fish in the middle of the gallery. Through this exhibition visitors can also see how arbitrary some of the archaeological initiatives of the 1930s were. When the Met came to an arrangement with the Iranian government on excavations at Nishapur, the “equal shares” were decided by the toss of a coin for each item.

Anyone visiting New York should see the museum’s revamp of the galleries to see the full story of how much things have changed over a long period. The tradition of collecting Islamic art goes back 130 years but the display emphasis has changed constantly. Through the Met’s efforts, it is possible to see how the need to make sense of Islamic art and to give it a context is an endless quest.

The new look galleries at the Met give a much stronger sense of geographical identity than they did 50 years ago.

Read more: Art & about: Giving context to Islamic art - Sunday Life & Times - New Straits Times http://www.nst.com.my/life-times/sunday-life-times/art-about-giving-context-to-islamic-art-1.351215#ixzz2eO4acycd

Opportunity awaits Islamic finance industry

Islamic finance and the forms of finance generally referred to as sustainable and responsible investing (SRI) are yet to actively collaborate with each other. One would think that to strengthen their position in a market dominated by conventional finance, Islamic finance and SRI would be sharing their successes and failures, coming together for joint ventures, and supporting each other on issues where they have similar views. But such collaboration has not occurred. Building bridges between the two remains an opportunity that is waiting to be seized upon by the industry leaders from the two sides.

Islamic finance and SRI share some obvious similarities in their objectives (do good; avoid harm), methods (e.g. exclusionary screening) and claims (such as emphasis on ethics). Both seem to trigger similar expectations among their proponents of being ethically different from conventional finance. They also face similar criticism of not being able to live to up to these expectations as shown by the ‘form versus substance’ debate in Islamic finance and ‘green washing’ debate in SRI. Although SRI is older and larger than Islamic finance, which is estimated between $1 to $2 trillion in terms of global assets, both are relatively small and growing segments.
Lack of collaboration

Why are then Islamic finance and SRI not actively collaborating? Some apparent reasons are different countries of concentration, differences in target markets, pre-occupation with their own growth, perception and reputational concerns, cultural barriers, lack of initiative by industry leaders, and simply insufficient understanding of each other. But in the absence of survey data, it is difficult to get to the bottom of this lack of collaboration.

Islamic finance is practised by international financial institutions offering conventional finance, such as HSBC. It has also drawn increasing interest from other international organisations, such as the World Bank, which organises an annual conference with the Islamic standard setter, Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI). Similarly, many conventional financial institutions are active in SRI. For instance, Goldman Sachs has participated in the first social impact bond in the US, it has 10,000 women initiative and its asset management arm is a signatory to UN Principles for Responsible Investment. If both Islamic finance and SRI can work with the leading and sometimes controversial faces of conventional finance, why can’t they work with each other.

At times, we do observe financial products that meet some traditional Islamic and modern environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria.
For instance, the Sustainable Resources Fund launched in 2012, that invests in a mix of agro-forestry, land and sustainable agricultural sectors is supposed to appeal to both Islamic and ‘green’ investors. Similarly, amid increasing news reports about ‘green’ sukuk, Australian solar companies secured funding through ‘green’ sukuk for projects in Indonesia in 2012. Other earlier examples include Dow Jones Islamic Sustainability Index introduced in 2006. Nonetheless, such examples remain exceptions.

Their general lack of interaction can also be observed in professional education. For instance, the curricula for Sustainable Investment Professional Certificate (offered by John Molson School of Business, Canada) and Islamic Finance Qualification (offered by Chartered Institute of Securities & Investment, UK) have limited, if any, content about each other.

The same trend is observed in industry reports even in a country like the United Kingdom which is home to both SRI and Islamic finance. For instance, the Islamic finance report 2012 by the City UK does not talk about other forms of ethical finance and UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association’s annual review 2011-12 does not talk about Islamic finance. Unsurprisingly, one sees the same trend of lack of interaction in industry conferences in Islamic finance and SRI.

There are of course differences between Islamic finance and SRI. One significant difference is that the concerns of Islamic finance go beyond the purpose of financing and also cover its structure. This is because of Islamic prohibitions of riba and excessive gharar, which are generally interpreted to include lending money on interest and the trading of risk. Also, the exclusionary screening applied in Islamic finance goes beyond the usual suspects (such as alcohol, tobacco and gambling) and covers conventional financial services because of prohibition of riba. However, the current form-oriented and legalistic compliance in Islamic finance that often has little effect on economic substance of transactions suggests that these prohibitions cannot explain the lack of collaboration with SRI.

Recently, we had two experts, one on Islamic finance and one on impact investing, at CFA Institute Middle East Investment Conference in Dubai on March 20-21, 2013. Speaking on Islamic finance in the global economy, Ebrahim Warde, professor at Tufts University, was clear that offering social value ought to be a part of Islamic finance. Talking about Impact Investing, Harry Hummels, professor at Maastricht University and a European liaison for Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), was of the view that it is intending and measuring a positive difference to society that turns an investment into impact investment and by implication Islamic finance could be structured as impact investing. Listening to Warde and Hummels reinforced the idea that there is room for collaboration between Islamic finance and SRI and at the core of expectations from them is the desire to see finance making a positive difference to the society.

Interestingly, in London, in October 2013, there are two significant events planned, one from impact investing and the other from Islamic finance. First is the GIIN Investor Forum, October 10-11, a global fathering for impact investors, to be held in partnership by the Global Impact Investing Network and the City of London Corporation (which also has an Islamic finance secretariat). Second is the World Islamic Economics Forum, October 29-31, a mega Islamic finance event that will be hosted in a country without a Muslim majority for the first time. At this stage, the most likely scenario is that the two events will take place independently of each other with no planned interaction.

Had Islamic finance and SRI actively been collaborating, these two events in London in the same month could have been a golden opportunity to further collaboration and grow both fields.
With so much in common between Islamic finance and SRI and so much to gain from active collaboration with each other, bringing the two sides together is an opportunity waiting to be taken up by the leaders from the two sides. Let’s see if this opportunity will indeed be realised, who those leaders will be and most importantly what gains will be brought about by active collaboration between Islamic finance and SRI

 
— Usman Hayat is Director of Islamic Finance and ESG investing at CFA Institute

Friday, September 6, 2013

Oman to open first booze-free luxury hotel



Oman’s first Sharia-compliant, alcohol-free, five-star hotel, the Muscat Grand Millennium Hotel, will open next year, it was reported.

In the latest company to cash-in on the new concept for the sultanate, The Shaza Muscat Company (SMC) on Tuesday signed an agreement with Millennium and Copthorne Hotels for the management and operation of the property, according to the Times of Oman.

“Alcohol will not be served in the hotel since it is a Sharia-compliant hotel,” Abdul Rahman Awadh Barham, a board member of SMC, was quoted as saying by the Times.

“This is not downgrading the hotel by any means, rather it is upgrading it to a better lifestyle. It is going to be a family and business hotel.”
 
With a planned footprint of 56,162 sqm, the Muscat Grand Millennium Hotel will include 324 rooms and suites set in an Arabic and global design.
The hotel will also comprise a 1,250 sqm ballroom with capacity for up to 1,000 guests in addition to a large pre-function room, VIP rooms and Majlis.

In addition, it will have eight dedicated board rooms and meeting rooms for corporate events and two full sized swimming pools.
The Times said an estimated $72.72m (OMR28m) would be spent building the five-star offering, which will be about 16 km from both the Muscat International Airport and the Central Business District.

“We have two Sharia-compliant properties in Dubai, which are extremely successful. This is our third such hotel in the GCC region,” said Ramsay Rankoussi, Manager Development and Planning and Asset Management Middle East and Africa.

Rankoussi said Sharia-compliant properties had a specific market, mainly in the GCC region.
Hotels in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are Sharia-compliant by law.
“We are trying to develop a lasting relationship with companies that own properties. We want to respect the culture and Islamic heritage,” he said.

The hotel will be located next to the Muscat Grand Mall, which will be connected to the hotel through a sky bridge.
“Muscat continues to grow as an attractive tourist destination in the region, and the way forward is to cater to this burgeoning market by offering a full lifestyle and retail experience that meets not only regional, but also global expectations,” said Khamis Mubarak Al Kiyumi, chairman of SMC.

Mumtalakat Holding Company obtains US$250 million revolving credit facility

BAHRAIN: The investment arm of the kingdom of Bahrain, Mumtalakat Holding Company, has successfully secured a US$250 million revolving credit facility on the 1st September. The transaction involved National Bank of Bahrain and Gulf International Bank as the mandated lead arrangers, facility agent and structuring bank, whilst Bank of Bahrain and Kuwait, Arab Bank and Mashreq Bank acted as the co-arrangers for the deal. The legal firms involved in the transaction were UK-based Charles Russell and Elham Ali Hassan & Associates in Bahrain. 

Part of the proceeds from the facility were utilized for the repayment of a US$500 million existing syndicated facility which was procured in 2008 and matured at the end of August this year. According to representatives from the investment firm, Mumtalakat has consistently refinanced the facility over the past two years, and has repaid up to US$250 million in outstanding debt. Commenting on the deal Mahmood Al Kooheji, the CEO of the sovereign wealth fund, said: “The new revolving credit facility is part of Mumtalakat 's overall financing and funding strategy, which utilizes a balanced mix of local, regional and international banks, as well as key pools of liquidity in global capital markets.” 

Earlier this year, the company allocated up to US$150 million for investments in local projects including a total of US$87 million for the real estate and tourism sectors to boost the Bahraini economy. According to data by the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute, as of August 2013, Mumtalakat holds approximately US$7.2 million in assets attained from non-commodity related resources. In July 2012, the investment firm issued a RM3 billion (US$912.47 million) ringgit-denominated Sukuk Murabahah program which was assigned a long-term rating of ‘AA2’ with a stable outlook by Malaysia-based RAM Ratings.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

International Islamic wins award

 




DOHA: Qatar International Islamic Bank (International Islamic) has been chosen for the “Award for excellence in Straight Through Processing (STP)” instituted by Commerzbank.

Commerzbank is a leading bank in Germany and Poland that boasts nearly 15m private customers, as well as 1m business and corporate customers across the globe.

International Islamic’s Chief Operating Officer Ali Hamad Al Mesaifri received the award from Ralph Nitzgen, SEO & General Manager, Commerzbank, Dubai Branch and Benjamin Duve, Relationship Manager, Commerzbank, Dubai Branch at a ceremony.International Islamic Chief of Treasury & Investments,  Peter Bokma, Head of Local Operations Ahmed Ballan and  First Supervisor –International Operations-Najeeb Ahmed Nasiruddin  were also present.

Commerzbank said: “The STP award is given in appreciation of International Islamic’s ability to use the correct fields in SWIFT messages, which enable the payments to pass through the receiving banks systems without manual intervention.”

International Islamic’s staff members staff members are being given regular training and swift STP courses designed to update the knowledge of the swift messaging system and use of correct fields. Al-Mesaifri said: “International Islamic attached significant importance to STP as proper formatting of payments was key to ensuring that the payments went directly without any manual intervention. If the payment is wrongly formatted, we have to stop and repair it before we can send the payment to the beneficiary concerned. The result is a delay in receiving payments at the beneficiary side.”




KL to be Islamic wealth management hub

KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 5, 2013): The Securities Commission (SC) aims to position Malaysia as an Islamic wealth management centre, a target that is highly feasible because of the country's high savings rate.

Chairman Datuk Ranjit Ajit Singh said to this end, steps were being taken to create a certain number of intermediaries in the area.

"This is the effort that we are collectively pursuing now. The strategy is that we are getting some firms to come in," he said at a public lecture today.

The lecture, titled "Positioning Malaysia as an Islamic Wealth Management Marketplace -- A Regulator's Perspective", is organised by BNP Paribas Malaysia Bhd and the International Centre for Education in Islamic Finance.

Ranjit said this in response to a question on how Malaysia could be an Islamic wealth management centre.

As of July 2013, there were 19 licensed Islamic fund management companies in Malaysia, according to the SC's website.

Ranjit said currently, the Islamic fund management companies enjoyed tax incentives.
He said players should look into innovative solutions that could be offered to their clients.
Earlier, in his lecture, Ranjit said Malaysia's assets under management of Islamic funds were expected to hit RM322 billion by 2020 from RM80 billion end-2012.

He said the RM80 billion represented about 60% of total industry assets, thus there was strong demand for the local Islamic funds.

"As a result, Malaysia has emerged as the world's largest sukuk market, accounting for almost 70% of global sukuk outstanding.
 
"Malaysia is also home to the world's largest unit trust industry with 169 syariah-compliant funds," he said.

Following this, he said, there was a significant scope for Malaysia to continue innovating and expanding the Islamic market place by generating broader approach with regional countries. – Bernama

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

World Islamic Economic Forum Showcases Cultural Spectacle



World Islamic Economic Forum Showcases Cultural
Spectacle At ‘Mocafest’ In London

A global culture festival, bringing together artists and audiences from the Muslim and non-Muslim world, will meet in London this October. The Marketplace of Creative Arts (MOCAfest) - hosted as part of the 9th World Islamic Economic Forum which will convene outside the Islamic world for the first time in its history - will meet in London for two days of performances, master-classes, networking sessions and collaborations from 30th-31st October at the Excel Centre, London.

Hosted by the UK and Malaysian governments and organised by the WIEF Foundation, MOCAfest has been supported by Soul City Arts, a Birmingham-based non-profit community organization delivering arts interventions around the globe, and Radical Middle Way, which aims to promote an understanding of Islam among young people. In addition, the culture and arts event is being supported by UK partners including London & Partners, the Mayor of London, and UKTI.

Free and open to the public, and featuring 30 artists from a diverse range of genres, MOCAfest will explore the role that art and culture plays in driving economic growth and business collaboration between East and West. The festival will showcase some of the most exciting new talent from across the globe.

A visual arts and installation exhibition will be open each day of the festival, and a selection of panel discussions, workshops and insights will also be offered. Each event will focus on the theme of the festival - using the common language of business to build bridges between the Muslim and non-Musilm world, helping emerging artists develop skills to help them to launch their careers.
 
The installation exhibition will showcase works from artists such as: Mohammed Ali, a street artist from the UK, famous for using his graffiti styles to convey messages of positive social change; Sukina Douglas, a poet and hip-hop artist based in London who has been described as a forerunner in the growing Muslim hip-hop scene; and Eckhart Ahmed Krausen, a photographer based in Copenhagen who specialises in the study and documentation of Islamic architecture across Europe.
In addition, an independent film festival will screen an array of international films touching on a variety of topics aimed at highlighting underpinning themes of the 9th WIEF.

In addition to MOCAfest, this year, the pre-festival MOCAfellows will take place on the 26th-28th October. It aims to equip aspiring artists from across the world with the business skills they will need to launch a successful career in the creative industries. Workshops will cover issues such as creative business development, financial planning, and training in digital media. All of the artists attending applied for positions to the pre-festival and will have the opportunity to perform, present and exhibit their work at MOCAfest.

Chairman of the WIEF, the Hon Tun Musa Hitam, said: “As the WIEF showcases the very best that the Islamic world has to offer as a lucrative trade and investment hub, MOCAfest will highlight the creative individuals harboring their talents and increasingly becoming an economic force within the global marketplace. MOCAfest and MOCAfellows will build on the themes of the 9th WIEF and use the common language of business to help emerging artists develop skills that will inspire and help them to launch their careers .”

Executive Director & Head of The Young Leaders Network, Fazil Irwan Som, said “MOCAfest continues to open new doors to emerging artists who would otherwise not have the chance to showcase on an international stage. We have been to Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Astana, Bandung, Johor Bahru, and now London and we will continue to change people’s lives and celebrate good art wherever we go.”

More than 1,500 government leaders, captains of industries, academic scholars, regional experts, professionals and corporate managers from 100 countries will come together at the 9th World Islamic Economic Forum to boost trade partnerships between Islamic and European markets, and explore London’s future as a global hub for Islamic Finance.

Speakers from the world of politics will include the Prime Minister of Malaysia, the Honourable Dato' Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak, The Prime Minister of Pakistan, H.E. Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, the Governor of the Bank Negara Malaysia, Tan Sri Dato' Sri Dr. Zeti Akhtar Aziz, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Baroness Warsi, Minister for Trade and Investment, Lord Green, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Greg Clark, Minister of State for International Development, Alan Duncan, His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Bahrain Crown Prince and First Deputy Prime Minister, and HM Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan of Brunei Darussalam.

Issues covered at the Forum will include harnessing the potential of women as critical growth drivers, harmonising global standards on Islamic Finance for high quality education in developing economies, and developing technological collaboration between Islamic and European economies. The event warmly welcomes participation from the Muslim and non-Muslim world.

Turkey’s giant projects to fuel Islamic finance boom






İbrahim Turhan (2nd L), chairman of BIST, thinks Islamic finance tools may benefit Turkey’s large infrastructure projects like bridges, airports, and Kanal Istanbul. AA photoTurkey’s large infrastructure investments may boost the country’s Islamic finance sector which has already been witnessing a boom, the country’s top capital markets officials have said.

“Islamic finance tools may be benefited from in [financing of] in Turkey’s mega projects like bridges, airports, and Kanal Istanbul. These projects are compatible with the Islamic financing structure,” İbrahim Turhan, chairman of Turkey’s stock exchange Borsa Istanbul said yesterday, speaking at the Islamic Finance News Roadshow.

Vahdettin Ertaş, Capital Markets Board (SPK) chairman, also said that they “believed” the private sector’s sukuk, an Islamic compliant bond, export needs would increase due to the large infrastructure investments on the agenda.

Currently, the Treasury’s sukuk exports have outpaced $5 billion, while the private sector has exported more than $1.5 billion.

During the ceremony, Bank Asya said it was planning to export at least 125 million Turkish Liras of additional sukuk before the year ended, while Albaraka Türk said it was mulling exporting over $200 million worth of sukuk within the last quarter or at the beginning of next year.

In the past 10 years, the non-interest finance sector grew around 15 percent and the number of countries in which financial bodies operating in compliance with Islamic finance rules could be found has surpassed 70, Ertaş stressed. “It’s expected to exceed $1.9 trillion by the end of this year,” he said.

Islamic finance has been sublimated as a safe haven during the financial crisis that sparked skepticism towards interest-oriented finance.

Alternative financing
According to the chief regulator, these Islamic-compliant tools were “not only valuable because they are religious or virtuous,” but they were also “alternative products leaning on a strong financial basis.”

Non-interest financial tools are accorded a great importance in Turkey’s bid to make Istanbul a global financial center as well. “We see that there is a substantial saving surplus in our neighboring Gulf country friends, and in Asia, and these funds prefer non-interest financial tolls, in which they can invest safely,” Ertaş said.

BIST Chairman Turhan also announced that they are planning to open a research and development center for the Islamic financing studies, with the support of the Treasury and World Bank.

In February the government expanded the utilization of Islamic financial tools. It introduced new regulations opening the way for Islamic banks to found non-interest pension funds and most recently enabling them to invest private pension funds in non-interest financial instruments.

“As of today the investors of these kinds of [non-interest] funds have surpassed 400,000, while the fund amount reached above $175 million,” Ertaş has said during the same event.