Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Islamic finance may face challenges from economic slowdown; another call for focus on the ethical basis of Islamic finance

Although there has been a lot of suggestion that Islamic finance is immune to the credit crisis (although it may be hurt by the follow on economic slowdown), the Islamic financial industry has not yet gone through a period where the legal structure has been tested if the issuers of sukuk, for example, default. For example, there has not been a challenge of whether sukuk holders have a claim on the asset used to back sukuk. According to an article in Asian Banker, the IFSB says that they should, but the fallout from the economic slowdown may result in an actual test of whether or not sukuk holders get ownership of the underlying asset in the case of default.

A EFG-Hermes report on the UAE says that the merger of Islamic finance companies Amlak and Tamweel will be a balancing act and that "one thing we can be reasonably confident is that while Amlak and Tamweel may make it to the beginning of the year, they are unlikely to make it to the end".

Farmida Bi argues that focusing too narrowly on specific rules as opposed to the intent of Shari'ah guidelines hampers growth and that "If Islamic finance is seen in its true guise as a form of ethical financing, of interest to all rather than only as a faith-based activity of interest to the Muslim population, it is likely to find favour with a different type of conventional investor who would be potentially willing to consider different types of risk-reward stuctures." I wholeheartedly agree that Islamic finance should focus on the objectives (maqasid) of the Shari'ah and should work to attract non-Muslims. This will ensure that the industry does not just become an exercise in structured finance, but promotes a greater ethical cause that is shared among peoples of all faiths.

Japan's largest bank, the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ is planning to offer Islamic financial services in the Middle East and Asia. Japanese companies have been exploring growth into Islamic finance and some have started to become involved in the industry.

Islamic finance in India is finally beginning to develop some momentum.

1 comment:

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