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Baroness Warsi, Senior Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Minister for Faith and Communities at the Department for Communities and Local Government is currently visiting Brunei. She will be meeting with a range of government departments and representatives of business and community organisations covering areas of mutual interest and promoting the UK’s Islamic finance initiatives.
Islamic finance is one of Baroness Warsi’s top priorities. At the World Islamic Economic Forum, WIEF held in London last October, at which His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei Darussalam consented to take part in a panel discussion with other Heads of State, Baroness Warsi said:
It was 18 months ago, on a visit to Indonesia and Malaysia, that I was convinced of the potential for the growth of Islamic finance. I made it my personal priority.
It’s why we set up the first ministerial-led Islamic finance task force, and it’s been a real pleasure to lead it. And from Malaysia to the Gulf, banging the drum for Britain, one thing came across loud and clear: The Muslim world wanted Britain to enter the capital market with an Islamic bond – a sukuk. And it wanted to see an Islamic finance market that never sleeps.
Now there were many that said this can’t be done. But with pragmatism, political will, and downright Yorkshire stubbornness, I’m delighted that Britain has committed to becoming the first country outside the Muslim world to issue a sukuk.
At the WIEF the UK Government committed to setting up a Global Islamic Finance and Investment Group, with the aim of identifying the key global opportunities and barriers facing Islamic Finance and to use its extensive knowledge and expertise to create a global Islamic Finance market that supports growth and prosperity. The Group, which had its inaugural meeting in London on 26 March, includes Premiers, Ministers, CEOs of major Islamic banks, central bank Governors and regulators – people who can make a real difference to the global landscape of Islamic Finance.
One of the inaugural members of the Group is Mr Javed Ahmad, Managing Director of Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam. We are delighted that Mr Ahmad was able to accept the invitation to participate, not only because of the expert knowledge and experience he brings to the Group but also because his participation helps strengthen further the links between the UK and Brunei in this area.
In March, Professor Dr Mehmet Asutay, Director of Durham Doctoral Training Centre in Islamic Finance, Durham University, was in Brunei to deliver the Islamic Financial Services Board Council Financial Policy and Stability public lecture on the topic of the “Islamic Moral Economy and Dynamics of the Development of Islamic Financial Services Industry”. The Autoriti Monetari Brunei Darusslam is the current Chair of the IFSB and hosted the 24th Meeting of the IFSB Council and 12th General Assembly as well as other related events.
The UK has been providing Islamic financial services for over 30 years and Government policy over the last decade has created a fiscal and regulatory framework that encourages the growth of Islamic finance. The UK is the leading western country and Europe’s premier centre for Islamic finance with US$19 billion of reported assets. The removal of double tax on Islamic mortgages, the extension of tax relief on Islamic mortgages to companies as well as to individuals, and the reform of arrangements for issues of debt have resulted in the UK becoming the key western gateway for Islamic finance with London as its World leading financial services centre.
Follow Foreign Office Minister Baroness Warsi on Twitter @SayeedaWarsi