Evening Standard: London can be Islam’s global financial centre

By Joe Murphy
London has a “golden opportunity” to become the global centre of the booming Islamic finance business, a Cabinet minister will say tonight.

Baroness Warsi wants the City to respond to the potential of a sector set to expand by £400 billion in the next two years, offering billions in earnings as well as funding for major infrastructure projects to benefit the country.

“It’s about making Britain the preferred choice for the Muslim world to invest in and do business in,” the senior Foreign Office minister will tell the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies.

Islamic finance has already helped to fund some of the capital’s newest landmarks, including the Shard, the Olympic Village and redevelopments at Chelsea Barracks and Harrods.

“Each is a powerful reminder of the sector’s rapid rise and the importance of engaging with potentially lucrative new markets in the Muslim world and beyond,” the minister will say.

“It is not a silver bullet but it is a golden opportunity.” Her speech will come ahead of the ninth World Islamic Economic Forum this October in London, the first in a non-Muslim country.

She will reveal that the Government is considering a major overseas promotion for UK financial institutions and is looking at establishing a regulator and accreditation for educational courses.

Islamic finance requires ethical fin-ancing arrangements that avoid Riba, or the lending of money at exorbitant rates — prohibited in Islamic law. Leasing deals and forms of joint venture are among ways major investments can be set up in compliance with the rules.

Globally the market has grown 50 per cent faster than traditional banking and was less hit by the financial crash.

Baroness Warsi will say: “There is a clear demand which must be met and, in order to retain London’s status as the financial centre of the world, the City must respond.”