Lord Sheikh’s speech at House of Lords Interfaith Ethical Finance Roundtable

On 24 September 2013 the Islamic Finance Council UK organised this event at the House of Lords, with the keynote speaker being the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Lord Sheikh is a patron of the Islamic Finance Council UK, was co-chair of the event and gave the following speech.

As Patron of the Islamic Finance Council UK it is my pleasure to welcome you to the Interfaith Ethical Finance Roundtable.

Over the past 18 months the Islamic Finance Council has been holding a series of Ethical Finance Roundtables in Edinburgh together with Tods Murray solicitors. I believe that at these meetings we brought together various stakeholders in the ethical finance arena to share and discuss ideas.

I am sure that today’s roundtable focusing on the interfaith perspective towards ethical finance will bring an additional dimension to the preceding discussions.

It is an honor to have today’s discussions being led by the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Justin Welby.

I would like to thank the panelists and all of you for taking the time to participate in today’s discussion.

In addition on behalf of the Islamic Finance Council I would also like to thank the Arab Finance Forum and the Cambridge Interfaith Programme for their assistance in bringing this event together.

Against the backdrop of the financial crisis and the ongoing moral scandals from LIBOR fixing to usurious rates of the payday lenders, today’s discussion comes at a timely juncture.

I have a very long and strong connection with the City of London; I have spent my entire career focused on the insurance and financial services sector. I am also a founder member of the Associate Group of British Parliamentarians on Islamic banking and I have been elected as its Vice Chairman. It is an active organization and we meet frequently. One of the issues which we are pursuing is the issue of a UK Sovereign Sukuk. I am therefore keen to promote the ethical form of banking and finance. I am chairing and speaking at a fringe meeting on Islamic Finance at the Conservative Party Conference next week.

The IFC is based in Scotland a country which has a proud heritage in ethical finance and mutual organisation. The activities of the IFC are focused on 4 key areas:

1) Government policy advisory for Islamic finance;
2) Shariah Assurance and Governance;
3) Promoting Ethical finance; and
4) Community education and awareness.

The IFC is working with a number of European and African governments along with Central Banks in Malaysia and Bahrain. Its Board Members have been at the forefront of promoting the UK’s role as the leading Western hub for Islamic finance.

Modern Islamic finance emerged in the mid 1970s with the founding of Islamic banks but the growth has been very rapid since the 1990s. The market is now worth over 750 billion dollars globally. The United Kingdom has Shariah-compliant assets in excess of 18 billion dollars and it comes 8th in the Bankers league which is the highest amongst all Western countries. One of these first Islamic banks was a bank called Mit Ghamr in Egypt.

The founder based the model on the principle of the Savings Bank model which was founded by the great Rev. Henry Duncan of the Church of Scotland just over 200 years ago. So history has shown how the Church has played a role in inspiring modern ethical banking. In 2009 the official newspaper of the Vatican stated “The ethical principles on which Islamic finance is based may bring banks closer to their clients and to the true spirit which should mark every financial service.”

Today’s roundtable is a positive reflection of the UK’s ability as a rich diverse society, to bring communities together to focus on the common good. Many people in society, regardless of faith background, are eager to see a reformed banking sector and I hope the faith communities can play a practical role towards realising such.

One of the ways to highlight what people have in common is to encourage tolerance and understanding based on a mutual respect and to remind people of the many universal principles which are shared by the great religious traditions but which are often obscured or discarded in the modern age.

Honesty, integrity, transparency and contentment are some of the key principles underlying the Islamic economic philosophy which are shared by many others. In fact a considerable numbers of non Muslims have taken out Islamic Financial transactions worldwide.

I now look forward to hearing more from our esteemed speakers.

Finally I would like to specifically thank Daniel Morler and Omar Shaikh for their persistent efforts in bringing together today’s event. I am sure all of us will find the proceedings informative and beneficial.

I would now like to hand-over to my co-Chair Sir Gavyn Arthur to Chair the rest of the proceedings.

For more details on the event and if you would like a detailed transcript of the proceedings email your request to info@ukifc.com

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