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December 26, 2014 / 4 Tevet, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘cameron’

Britain: ‘A World Capital for Islamic Finance’

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Originally published at Gatestone Institute.

The London Stock Exchange will be launching a new Islamic bond index in an effort to establish the City of London as one of the world’s leading centers of Islamic finance.

Britain also plans to become the first non-Muslim country to issue sovereign Islamic bonds, known as sukuk, beginning as early as 2014.

The plans are all part of the British government’s strategy to acquire as big a slice as possible of the fast-growing global market of Islamic finance, which operates according to Islamic Sharia law and is growing 50% faster than the conventional banking sector.

Although it is still a fraction of the global investment market — Sharia-compliant assets are estimated to make up only around 1% of the world’s financial assets — Islamic finance is expected to be worth £1.3 trillion (€1.5 trillion; $2 trillion) by 2014, a 150% increase from its value in 2006, according to the World Islamic Banking Competitiveness Report 2012-2013, published in May 2013 by the consultancy Ernst & Young.

But critics say that Britain’s ambitions to attract investments from Muslim countries, companies and individuals are spurring the gradual establishment of a parallel global financial system based on Islamic Sharia law.

British Prime Minister David Cameron announced the plans during a keynote speech at the ninth World Islamic Economic Forum, which was held in London from October 29-31, the first time the event has ever been held outside the Muslim world.

“Already London is the biggest center for Islamic finance outside the Islamic world,” Cameron told the audience of more than 1,800 international political and business leaders from over 115 countries.

“And today our ambition is to go further still. Because I don’t just want London to be a great capital of Islamic finance in the Western world, I want London to stand alongside Dubai and Kuala Lumpur as one of the great capitals of Islamic finance anywhere in the world.”

Cameron said the new Islamic bond index on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) would help stimulate fixed-income investments from Muslim investors — especially investors from oil-rich Persian Gulf countries — by helping them identify which listed companies adhere to Islamic principles.

Investors who practice Islamic finance — which is said to be structured to conform to a strict code of ethics based on the Koran and Sharia law — refuse to invest in companies that are linked to alcohol, gambling, pornography, tobacco, weapons or pork. Islamic finance also forbids collecting or paying interest and requires that deals be based on tangible assets.

Unlike conventional bonds, sukuk are described as investments rather than loans, with the initial payment made from an Islamic investor in the form of a tangible asset such as land. The lender of a sukuk earns money as profit from rent, as in real estate, rather than traditional interest.

Cameron says the British Treasury will issue £200 million (€235 million; $320 million) worth of sukuk as early as 2014. The objective is to enable the government to borrow from Muslim investors. The Treasury plans to issue fixed returns based on the profit made by a given asset, thereby allowing Muslims to invest without breaking Islamic laws forbidding interest-bearing bonds.

The Treasury also said some sukuk bond issues may require the British government to restrict its dealings with Israeli-owned companies in order to attract Muslim money.

Although Britain has already established itself as the leading secondary market for sukuk — the LSE has listed 49 sukuk bonds worth $34 billion during the past five years — such bonds have rarely been issued from local firms and never from the government.

“For years people have been talking about creating an Islamic bond, or sukuk, outside the Islamic world. But it’s never quite happened,” Cameron said. “Changing that is a question of pragmatism and political will. And here in Britain we’ve got both.”

According to Cameron, this “pragmatism and political will” is being influenced by the fact that Islamic finance is “already fundamental” to the success of the British economy. Indeed, it is.

Britain is already the leading Western center for Islamic financial and related professional services. It is a leading provider of Sharia-compliant finance, with reported assets of $19 billion, according to Islamic Finance 2013, a new report published by The City UK, a financial sector lobby group.

The US Press to Keep Britain in the European Union

Monday, February 4th, 2013

In a high-stakes gamble, British Prime Minister David Cameron said last week, in his long anticipated speech about the European Union, that he would like the E.U. to be an open, internal market based on nation states rather than the centralizing and protectionist supranational European superstate currently in the making. To achieve this vision, the E.U. treaty, which explicitly calls for “an ever closer union,” needs to be revised. Cameron promised the British public that he would renegotiate the treaty to allow Britain to opt out of centralizing E.U. policies. He also committed to holding a referendum on Britain’s E.U. membership after the renegotiation, or by 2017 at the latest.

Cameron says he is confident that he will be able to persuade his E.U. colleagues of his views. If he fails, however, it will leave the British Conservative Party with no other option than leading Britain out of the E.U. The odds, moreover, are against Cameron.

His speech was not well received on the continent: Cameron was accused of pandering to the British electorate. Guido Westerwelle, Germany’s Foreign Minister sniffed that Cameron wants to “cherry pick” which aspects of E.U. membership to take or leave. Bernard Cazeneuve, France’s minister for the E.U., said that the E.U. is not “an a la carte package.” Spain and Italy were equally critical, while E.U. President Herman Van Rompuy cast doubt on whether a major revision of the treaty – essential to Cameron’s strategy – would take place.

These reactions are indicative of the contempt the political elites have for the concept of democratic accountability. Cameron was right to insist that democratic accountability is currently lacking in the E.U., while this should be one of the basic principles on which it is built. As The Wall Street Journal noted: “It says something about the mentality of too many European officials today that they are shocked that a British Prime Minister would put British interests and values at the core of his concerns.”

The reason why so many European politicians seem prepared to sacrifice prosperity and democratic representation on the altar of centralization is that their political cultures lack the democratic tradition of Britain. It is no coincidence that Switzerland, the most democratic country in Europe and also the one with the longest democratic tradition, categorically refuses to join the E.U.

Apart from Switzerland, the strongest democratic traditions are found in the countries belonging to the so-called Anglosphere. Cameron began his speech by referring to the British character, “independent, forthright, passionate in defense of our sovereignty.” He added that “in Europe’s darkest hour, we helped keep the flame of liberty alight. Across the continent, in silent cemeteries, lie the hundreds of thousands of British servicemen who gave their lives for Europe’s freedom.” Indeed, and the same applies to Americans, Canadians and Australians – the other nations of the so-called Anglosphere, the set of English-speaking nations of European stock with a Western cultural heritage.

In his 2004 book, The Anglosphere Challenge, American author James C. Bennett argued that the cultural and legal traditions of English-speaking nations make them particularly sensitive to anti-democratic tendencies. Historian Andrew Roberts points out that the Anglosphere was central in defeating Nazism and Communism in Europe. He says that it will also be crucial for the defeat of Islamism. Bat Ye’or argues in her book Eurabia, that the E.U. is one of the vehicles of Islamization in Europe today. By undermining the national identities of its member-states, which are seen as incompatible with the aim of building a pan-European superstate, the E.U. is also depriving the European peoples of the identity which they badly need if they are to assimilate the masses of Muslim immigrants who have settled in Europe during the past decades.

JUDGING FROM the American reaction to David Cameron’s speech, however, it seems that Britain can expect little support from the Anglosphere in its opposition to the centralizing E.U. tendencies. Prior to his speech, Washington warned Cameron not to be too critical of the E.U. and not to allow a referendum on the E.U.

Philip Gordon, the U.S. assistant secretary for European Affairs, was sent to London to tell the British government that “referendums have often turned countries inwards.” It is unclear what that assessment is based on: countries that allow referendums are usually the most democratic in the world and democracy is characterized by openness to the outside world. A Downing Street spokesman reacted to the American intervention with the remark: “The U.S. wants an outward looking E.U. with Britain in it, and so do we.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-us-press-to-keep-britain-in-the-european-union/2013/02/04/

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