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November 27, 2014 / 5 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘London’

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.

El Al Teams Up with GetTaxi

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

El Al has signed an agreement with GetTaxi to offer passengers discounts for GetTaxi’s cab hailing service in New York, Tel Aviv and other cities where it operates, the Globes business newspaper reported.

The discount from JFK to Manhattan will take $25 off the usual fare of $60-85. The discount program also is available in London and St. Petersburg, Russia.

The GetTaxi service in Israel will operate to the airport, giving El Al passengers a $5 discount. The discount is not available to inbound passengers because of an airport contract that gives one cab company exclusive rights to carry passengers out of the airport.

Roger Waters Open Letter Calls on Musicians to Boycott Israel

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

British rocker Roger Waters published an open letter calling on fellow musicians to join a boycott of Israel.

“I write to you now, my brothers and sisters in the family of Rock and Roll, to ask you to join with me, and thousands of other artists around the world, to declare a cultural boycott on Israel,” Waters wrote in the letter dated Aug. 18. The letter was previously drafted in July.

The former Pink Floyd front man said he was inspired to release the letter after British violinist Nigel Kennedy at a recent promenade concert at the Albert Hall in London called Israel an apartheid state. The BBC said it would remove his remarks in rebroadcasts of the concert.

Waters, who has been active in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, movement for at least seven years, referred to the boycott of apartheid South Africa, saying that first a trickle of artists refused to play there, leading to a “flood.”

He singled out Stevie Wonder’s canceling of a performance for the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces as a recent success story. Wonder quit his participation in the December fundraiser at the last minute under pressure from many corners.

“Please join me and all our brothers and sisters in global civil society in proclaiming our rejection of Apartheid in Israel and occupied Palestine, by pledging not to perform or exhibit in Israel or accept any award or funding from any institution linked to the government of Israel, until such time as Israel complies with international law and universal principles of human rights,” Waters wrote.

Waters recently came under fire for using at in his concerts a huge inflated balloon in the shape of a wild boar with a prominently visible Star of David, as well as a hammer and sickle, crosses and a dollar sign, among other symbols. It is a gimmick he has used for several years.

Henry Shaw & Names

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

What’s in a name? My late father had an only sibling called Henry Shaw. We loved our Uncle Hashy as we called him. He was huge, almost six-and-a-half feet tall, and had to stoop to get through the doors of our house. He had a deep but soft bass voice and a wonderful sense of humor. He was a marvelous raconteur, steeped in Yiddish culture and the intricacies of internal Jewish political warfare in Eastern Europe. His greatest impact on my life was the range of experiences he introduced me to, from Chazanut to Verdi’s Requiem, from Hillel Zeitlin to AJP Taylor, from Martin Buber to Bertrand Russell. He was less charismatic than my father, less combative, but a much more approachable person.

He qualified in social studies at London University and spent his life devoted to the Jewish Community, first in London in the Association of Jewish Youth, then running Hillel House in Endsleigh Street, London. He and his devoted wife, Sybil, provided a home from home for thousands of Jewish students from around the world for over twenty years. I saw most of him in my own student years and he was very supportive and encouraging. But then they ‘disappeared’ from my life and went off to Australia to take over the Hillel Foundation of Victoria which involved the Melbourne and Monash Universities. Five years later Henry switched to academia to help establish a Jewish studies program at Prahran College. His work eventually morphed into the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilization at Monash. Sybil died in 1978, but Henry flourished until 1996.

I am writing this piece because this week is his Yahrzeit. But also because I am embarrassed to admit that I never found out why he adopted the surname Shaw. Which leads me to the issue of Jewish surnames. We Jews never really took them very seriously. Napoleon’s civil reforms insisted that everyone had to have a surname. Previously non-Jews had Christian names (yes, that’s what first names were called in Britain until the sixties) and Jews had Jewish names on to which occasionally one added a location or a profession. When the law of the land insisted on surnames Jews usually took their profession, the town they came from, or a Latin version of a Hebrew word like Benedict or Priest. Amongst themselves they invariably used only Hebrew names, until the process of acculturation took hold. This explains why Jews tended to be rather cavalier about changing their civil names or having them changed by others.

My paternal grandparents came from Radomsk. My grandmother was a Bialystock, the name of a Polish town. My grandfather’s family name was a more Russian, Rozrasowski . During the great migrations of over a hundred years ago, lots of migrants took or had simpler or more western names given to them as they came through immigration. You have heard of the old Jewish gentleman called, improbably, Shawn Fergusson because when he arrived at immigration in a state of exhaustion and shock and was asked his name he said in Yiddish, “Shoyn Fergessen“ (“I forgotten.”). Or the Chinese man called Moishe Greenberg because as he came through after a Jewish migrant and gave his name as Sam Ting, they thought he meant “the same thing”.

Seriously, when the Rozrasowskis came to London in the early part of the twentieth century the family simplified its name to Rosen. They must have thought it would sound more English! There were five girls and four boys. The boys decided that they’d rather be known by their first names, so as to differentiate themselves. That was how my Grandfather Shlomo came to be known as Mr. Solomons. Indeed his tombstone in Dublin (where he moved during the Depression) gives his name as “Mr. Sydney Solomons (Rosen)”.

My father was always known as Rosen, but his elder brother Hashy became Shaw. Was it to sound more English, or actually Irish? Shaw is a popular Irish name. When his parents moved to Ireland this was an era in which when getting a job or an apartment with a Jewish name was as difficult as getting one with an African name fifty years later. Or was it just a play on Henry’s nickname Hashy? One family tradition had it that he had lost his papers and got an Irish passport on the black market. The most improbable was that he had accidentally killed an anti-Semitic drunk in a fight and carried his name as a penance. Who knows? He never gave me a straight answer.

But if you think this story strange, let me tell you about my maternal grandfather, Moishe Yaakov Cohen, known as MJ. He was born Moishe Shumacher in Uman in the Ukraine. As a boy he emigrated to Tredegar in Wales. There he was taken under the wing of a relative whose name was Cohen, who had become the godfather of Jewish peddlers servicing the isolated Welsh mining villages of the Rhonda with haberdashery and other supplies that the miners paid for in installments. The peddlers went out on foot on a Sunday with goods provided by Mr. Cohen and did not come back till Friday to spend Shabbes together and make up the minyan. It was suggested to Moishe that if he had the same name as the boss it would inspire confidence. So Moishe Shumacher, the Levi from Uman, became MJ Cohen. Soon he did well enough to set himself up in business on his own in Manchester as MJ Cohen, General Draper (a fancy name for selling odds and ends). Later he transferred to Cardiff. One day he sent a letter back home on his notepaper inviting relatives to come and join him. When they read the invitation they had no idea who MJ Cohen was, but they did recognize the word “General” and assumed he’d been promoted in the army and had changed his name to Draper. Which explains why we once had relatives in Manchester called Draper.

All these people I have mentioned here only had one Hebrew name from the beginning to the end, names that linked them directly to their heritage of millennia. Their surnames were secondary, like a chameleon’s skin. But they, like my Uncle Hashy, were and are all proud and contributing members of the Jewish people. As far as I am concerned that’s what counts.

In First, London(istan) to Host World Islamic Economic Forum (Video)

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

Melanie Phillips, the brilliantly acerbic British commentator, published a book a few years ago titled, “Londonistan.”  Phillips was aghast at what she saw as the increasing Islamization of her home city, as well as its warm embrace by the British elites, and the short shrift given to the connection between Islamization and terrorism.  Her book was an effort to warn those who were not paying attention that the British character of London was changing.  It was not becoming more international, but instead simply more Islamist.  It was not a change she saw as positive.

Some critics claimed Phillips was being an alarmist, others tarred her with the very worst thing anyone can be called these days: a racist.

But it does appear that what would have been derided as racist parody had Phillips written it, the schoolgirl excitement exuded by London’s political leadership in expressing London’s global role as an Islamic finance hub prove Phillips’ warnings in spades.

On Wednesday, July 3, London’s Mayor Boris Johnson announced at a press conference in London’s City Hall that his city will be the first non-Muslim city to host the annual World Islamic Economic Forum.  It will be held in October, at London’s Excel Centre. Johnson was joined at the press conference by the prime minister of Malaysia, Dato Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak (yes, all that is his name), WIEF Chairman Tun Musa Hitam, and England’s Minister for Trade and Investment Lord Stephen Green.

The WIEF has been previously held in Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Kuwait, and Pakistan.

“It is an immense honor that the World Islamic Economic Forum has chosen London for its first gathering outside of Asia, said London’s Mayor Johnson.  Hosting this conference will highlight London’s “status as a major center of Islamic finance and as a compelling destination for foreign investors.”

London and Partners, the British capital’s official promotional agency, worked hard to convince the WIEF to bring the 2013 event to London. Gordon Innes, the company’s chief executive officer, said that London “has a huge Muslim population” and emphasized that “London hosts the most significant Islamic finance cluster outside of Muslim countries.  London is really the only center in the west that has such depth and expertise  in this field.”

Innes said that Islamic finance is growing at “about the rate of 25 percent per year,” which makes it “the fasting growing part of London’s local finance.”

There are 22 Shariah compliant banks in London and Saudi Arabia is the second largest foreign investor in the UK after the US.

“Islamic finance” and “Shariah compliant banking” means that financial institutions are run in compliance with Islamic law.  Some aspects of Islamic finance do not seem threatening.  For example, in Shariah-compliant banking, lenders may not charge interest and investors cannot make money from forbidden industries like gambling, alcohol, pork and pornography.

But Islamic financing also  requires a form of “tithing” for charity, known as “zakat,” and only Muslim clerics are permitted to rule on where that money goes.  Some claim it may be used to finance terrorism (jihad) or to forcibly promote conversion to Islam.

London and Company’s Innes also cited the example of the Shard, London’s 72-story skyscraper and the tallest building in the European Union, which is largely financed and run by Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund.

“Kuwait is allocating 5 billion dollars to investments in the UK,” Innes said, “and a number of Islamic countries from the Gulf to East Asia to Turkey, etc. find tremendous opportunities in London in terms of growth and exports.”

The World Islamic Economic Forum will be held from October 29 – 31.

Here is Phillips, talking about England’s refusal to recognize that London has, in fact, become Londonistan.

AG Blocks Draft Bill as Haredim Rally Outside EU Headquarters

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

It was the first day of summer vacation, and representatives from the Haredi communities of Austria, Belgium, Britain, France and other European countries were bused in to rally outside the European Union headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on Monday, in protest of the new Israeli draft legislation that will require Haredi men to enlist.

The protesters appealed to the EU to put pressure on Israel to change the legislation.

Rabbi Betzalel Weisz, a rosh yeshiva from Stamford Hill, London, said Haredi Jews were obligated to offer their vocal support to the Haredim in Israel, and to urge them not to give up their staunch position that Haredim don’t serve in the army.

“The aim of the army and the Zionists is not defense but to undermine religion and remove Haredim from the religion,” Weisz said.

The rally was very well organized, in almost military style. The IDF would do well to recruit all these folks, if only as consultants on putting together projects involving large groups of people without accidents. Remember, these are the people that packed thousands into a stadium in Queens to protest the Internet.

Hraedi Rally EU 2

Meanwhile, the path of the new draft bill has been blocked, at least temporarily, by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, who ruled that in order to achieve complete equality, the draft law must be clipped of two major benefits for young Haredi recruits: deferment until age 21 and the choice between the civil and military service.

AG Weinstein wrote, regarding the age differential, that “this is a rule that carries with it a violation of the equality principle for recruits who are not yeshiva students, and who are generally drafted by the army at the age of 18.”

When’s the next bus to Brussels?

British ‘Jewish Police’ Force to Protect Mosques

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

The “Shomrim” Haredi police uniformed police force in London has offered to protect mosques in the Hackney district following violent attacks on local mosques, the British edition of Huffington Post reported.

The Shomrim regularly patrol the heavily Jewish populated area of Stamford Hills and often detain suspects until police arrive. The group’s origins are in New York, where the Shomrim organized after being tired of long response times of the local men in blue.

Muslim leaders met with Shomrim officials in a London area mosque  to discuss mutual cooperation, promoted by Hackney councilor Ian Sharer, an orthodox Jew who helped found the Muslim-Jewish forum.

“In our ward, the three councilors are two Haredi Jews, and one religious Muslim. We have been friends for many years, and we get on every well,” he told Huffington. “This is a very serious situation, and so I thought, why not call my friends from Shomrim?”

The Muslims welcomed the  offer and now have the Shomrim phone number to call if there is trouble.

Recent Muslim attacks have included arson on a community center and a homemade explosive device that was found at a mosque.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/british-jewish-police-force-to-protect-mosques/2013/06/25/

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