After years of neglect and protracted prejudice, European countries are coming round to the idea that Islamic banking or Islamic finance aren’t suspect or terrorism-related after all. Increasing numbers of European governments are being drawn to Islamic finance, a chief instrument of which (for Europe at least, for now) is sukuk.
Sukuk is loosely defined as a financial certificate, similar to a bond in conventional international finance, that is meant to operate in accordance with the Sharia. But as sukuk issuance spreads, that compliance is set to come under keener spotlight. The challenge of expanding sukuk worldwide and staying within the Sharia law is among issues that surely will come up for discussion at the annual London Sukuk Summit, the eighth in the series.
European appetite for sukuk has grown as European economies have shrunk or struggled with problems associated (rightly or wrongly) with the “catch-all” economic crisis of 2008-09, or as the result of their own ill-conceived and poorly implemented policies. International military adventures have played their part in emptying state coffers and depriving electorates and taxpayers of normal benefits that should have accrued to them.
Curiously, among supplicants for sukuk are governments that have consistently pursued politically expedient and divisive domestic social policies, such as the ban on the veil in France, similar measures of varying intensity in other countries in or outside the European Union, including the Netherlands and Switzerland, and some nation states in northern Europe. The ascendancy of right-wing politics in Europe runs simultaneously with approaches towards Islamic finance, which are often downright cynical or opportunistic.
This year’s London Sukuk Summit will take place 18-19 June at the Jumeirah Carlton, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 9PY.
Organiser ICG Events says the London Sukuk Summit has “over the years established itself as the foremost gathering in this field based on its ability to bring together the leading industry experts and institutions to explore the key issues impacting the Islamic Capital Markets sector and its future development and is very much an industry led and industry focused event.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron announced in 2013 his government’s intention to issue a debut GBP 200 million sovereign sukuk in 2014, now said to be in the works. Other EU countries including Luxembourg are also vying for similar ventures, though governance and regulatory issues have come in the way, at least for now. The British sukuk is more symbolic than substantial, given the small amount, and in some ways a sop to certain sections of the community that see it as a reassuring gesture of inclusivity by the government. In other respects it’s intended as a positioning ploy for the City of London, a precursor for grander things seen to evolve in London’s emergent Islamic financial world and a kind of insurance against any adverse fallout for London from the EU’s Financial Transactions Tax. Be that as it all may, London’s emergence as an Islamic financial centre can’t be a bad thing at all. To paraphrase a shopkeeper, every little does indeed help in these interesting times.
The London Sukuk Summit has assumed even greater significance for all those individuals or organisations engaged in or interested in accessing the “huge opportunities” available in the rapidly growing global Islamic financial services industry, ICG says.
Confirmed speakers for this year’s conference cited by the organiser include:
Baroness Saeeda Warsi, Senior Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Co-Chair of the UK Government Islamic Finance Task Force
- Sir Paul Judge, Sheriff of the City of London
- Wayne Evans, Adviser in International Strategy, TheCityUK
- Jaseem Ahmed, Secretary General, IFSB
- Dr Abdel Rahman Tayeb Taha, CEO, ICIEC
- Wan Abdul Rahim Kamil, Senior Consultant, Securities Commission Malaysia
- Mohamad Tariq, Former Treasurer & Senior Advisor to the President, Islamic Development Bank (IDB)
- Badlisyah Abdul Ghani, Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, CIMB Islamic
- Issam Al Tawari, Chairman & Managing Director, Rasameel Structured Finance
- Qinvest representative
- Sohail Jaffer, Deputy CEO, FWU AG Group
- Azizi Ali, Senior Vice President – Islamic Business, Cagamas
- Mohamed Damak, Director, Standard & Poor’s
- Ibrahim Mardam-Bey, Group President, Taylor-DeJongh
- Robert Fresco, Director, Legendre Patrimoine
- Stella Cox, Managing Director, DDCAP
- Torsten Böhler, Managing Director, Abacus Emerging Markets
- Adnan Halawi, Product Manager – Zawya Islamic, Thomson Reuters
- Abradat Kamalpour, Partner, Ashurt
- Sarah Gooden, Partner, Trowers & Hamlins LLP
- Marc Theisen, Managing Partner, Theisen Law
- Mushtak Parker, Editor, Islamic Banker
- Dr Akram Laldin, Shariah Scholar, ISRA
- Sheikh Faizal Manjoo, Shariah Scholar & Lecturer, The Markfield Institute of Higher Education
- Sheikh Bilal Khan, Co Chairman, Dome Advisory & UK Catalyst, UKTI
The Sukuk Summit Awards, which celebrate outstanding achievement in sukuk, Islamic capital markets as well as Islamic finance in general, will be the highlight of a Gala Dinner during the proceedings.
“The summit is specifically aimed at harnessing the most current issues so as to keep all interested parties informed of the sukuk market developments and innovation; to provide a platform for dialogue with peers; and to provide all participants with a voice in contributing to the future direction of the Islamic debt and capital markets,” ICG says.
Participation and registration info: www.sukuksummit.co.uk. This article was also published 29 April 2014 at meenet.info