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Bashar Qasem is the most outspoken voice among Muslim investors in the United States. He was the only Islamic financial representative among religious shareholder advocates who sent a letter in February to protest U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban. Qasem's Azzad Asset Management firm started its work in 2005, weighing in on issues like worker safety, climate change and lobbying disclosures. This direct advocacy will test whether U.S. Muslim investors will support the sort of faith-based shareholder activism common among other religious groups. Qasem's strategy appears to be helping to differentiate his firm from other asset management firms. Azzad's assets increased 11% in 2016 to US$487 million (£393 million) at year-end. Growth included US$5.7 million into the firm’s mutual funds, the third consecutive year of inflows.
Trustbank from Suriname is one step closer to open its doors to customers interested in Islamic banking products after it signed a new licensing deal with the Kuwaiti based software vendor, Path Solutions, to implement Islamic Banking and Investment System as a new core banking platform.
This is major thing for the Path Solutions, as it’s the company’s first Islamic core banking software deal in the Americas. The company won the deal as one of three shortlisted vendors besides Oracle FS, Temenos. Path Solutions won the deal because of ist Sharia compliance, product functionality and technological superiority.
Samantha Lord-Konare converted to Islam six years ago and then she found herself in a quandary because of a student and credit card loan that her new religion prohibited. Lord-Konare vowed not to use her credit card but resolving the issue of her student loan was more challenging.
She consulted the imam who presented her with four options. She could pay off her loan in one lump sum, obtain an interest-free loan, receive the money as a gift, or do her best to pay off her student loan as quickly as she could. "Of course, I had to choose the last. I could never ask someone for that amount of money," said Lord-Konare.
Islamic scholars say there is a clear prohibition on usury in the Koran. The Shariah also stipulates that Muslims should acquire wealth in a legal and ethical manner; any element of usury, gambling or chancing is forbidden.
GCC is expected to account for about 31% of sovereign bond issuances from emerging markets this year. The expected 2017 sovereign issues will be distributed among GCC, Eastern Europe Middle East Africa and Latin America, according to forecasts by Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Issues from the GCC has been increasing rapidly mainly due to low oil prices, with some new issuers in 2016, and analysts expect the 2017 issuance to continue to be high. Among those, Kuwait inaugurated the external sovereign debt market with $8 billion (Dh29.3 billion) to finance a budget deficit resulting from low oil prices. Sovereign issuance for 2017 is forecast to be 6% higher compared to the previous year. In 2016, sovereigns issued $135 billion, mainly from Latin America, while corporates issued about $300 billion, mainly from Asia. Analysts expect gross sovereign external issuance to come in at $144bn in 2017.
Islamic finance is increasingly making inroads into the US in a variety of forms, but widely out of the radar of the broader public. In the recent past, there has been a rise in the number of Islamic financial service providers. There are now about three dozen official Islamic finance providers in the US. Among the top institutions offering Islamic financial services in the country in terms of asset size are Lariba American Finance House and the associated Bank of Whittier in Los Angeles, as well as University Islamic Financial in Michigan. In terms of skills training, Harvard University has an Harvard Islamic Finance Program and the Franco-American Alliance for Islamic Finance is organising Islamic finance seminars this summer. On the consumer side, Islamic finance in the US is mostly prevalent in the real estate market.
US-based State Street Global Advisors announced that a huge exchange-traded fund for investment in gold has been certified as being sharia compliant. The question of whether ETFs themselves comply with Islamic law has not been addressed. The fund, called SPDR Gold Shares, is one of the world's largest ETFs, having a net asset balance of more than $30 billion. Managed and marketed by State Street Global, it is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The World Gold Council paved the way for certification by asking the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions to determine criteria for gold trading. The AAOIFI announced standards for gold trading in December 2016. Joseph Cavatoni, who is in charge of ETFs at the World Gold Council, said the certification is an important step toward meeting demand for gold in the Islamic financial market.
Azzad Asset Management has joined other socially responsible investment institutions in signing a coalition letter to the 19 CEOs who are members of President Trump's Strategic and Policy Forum. The letter asks to oppose the president's recent executive order barring refugees and certain immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries. In addition to public outcry against the ban on humanitarian and constitutional grounds, many have pointed out the negative impact of barring international workers on the economy. The letter was signed by 64 socially responsible investment firms and human rights and religious organizations. The Strategic and Policy Forum's first meeting is scheduled for February 3.
Charles Haresnape, Aldermore’s group managing director of mortgages, is leaving the real estate company after six years. Haresnape will be joining shariah-compliant Gatehouse Bank as chief executive. An Aldermore spokeswoman confirmed that Haresnape was leaving and said he had been instrumental to the growth of the company's mortgage business. She added that Charles Haresnape would remain in the business whilst Aldermore searched for his replacement.
US President Donald Trump has been accused of courting international trade friction and a new international debt crisis. There were already signs given the huge debt built up over a decade of record low interest rates, and that rates had begun rising. The next international debt crisis could well be in the emerging market corporate sector. Global debt has reached US$217 trillion, equal to a record 325% of global gross domestic product. Investors in Brazil, South Korea, Thailand, Chile, Czech and Malaysia especially have been big borrowers. While most of this has been in local currencies, corporates in India, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Russia as well as Hong Kong and Singapore have borrowed heavily in foreign currency. This creates a currency mismatch situation.
Goldmoney announced that Goldmoney Network Accounts and Wealth Holdings have been endorsed as Shariah-compliant by the Shariah Supervisory Board of Amanie Advisors. Islamic investors can now instantly purchase, save, and transact in gold globally on the Goldmoney platform. Goldmoney's chief strategy officer Josh Crumb said that the company's platform democratizes access to 100% reserved and allocated gold-based savings, payments, and investment solutions. CEO Roy Sebag stated that compliance with Shariah law was an important step in the company's growth, enabling Goldmoney to expand its offerings to the Islamic market.
Iran and Venezuela inaugurated a joint bank to finance their development projects. The opening ceremony took place in Tehran during a visit by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The Tehran based Iran-Venezuela Joint Bank has an initial capital base of 200 million dollars, with each nation providing half of the funds. The Export Development Bank of Iran, which is under sanctions from the US Treasury, was tasked with creating the joint bank. The joint bank will work within Iran’s banking regulations and its activities will be overseen by the Islamic republic’s Central Bank. The board of directors comprises four Iranians and four Venezuelans. A joint investment fund will also be launched in Venezuela.
An unknown group of people have purposefully leaked new allegations surrounding the Turkey-based bank Kuveyt-Turk. A press release published on Nov. 19 claimed that US Senator Dick Durbin would hold hearings to investigate two key banking institutions in Kuwait and whether they helped fund terrorism. The press release read that Durbin would target Kuwait Finance House and its subsidiary in Turkey, the Kuveyt-Turk participation bank. A spokesman at Senator Durbin's office flatly denied the report and said it was completely false. The fake report has surfaced amidst an ongoing court case in California against the two banks on the terror funding charges. Kuveyt-Turk's lawyers dismissed the charges by saying the allegations have no merit because banks are not responsible for the allegations. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the allegations over Kuveyt-Turk and Kuwait Finance House were proof of Western double standards.
Many Muslims contacted me in the last years with one single repeating question: Are CFD and/or Binary Options halal meaning permissible in Islam? There are indeed forex brokers offering so called Islamic accounts avoiding outright interest. But still: A contract of difference does not involve the ownership of any underlying (currency, stocks etc.) hence money against money is exchanged in different amounts - this is the most simple test for the prohibited Riba. Any Muslim receiving such offers should therefore insist of receiving the Fatwa and if not provided leave out.
The intention on those trading activities everyone can ask himself; mostly it will be akin to gambling and this on top of the fact that the trading activity itself is a zero sum game; meaning what one wins another looses, which rules out again to participate in such business. It does not do any better that aside from luck the outcome is influenced by know how - the same is true for classical money games as Poker or Backgammon. Still nobody would classify Poker therefore as halal.
Members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) are asking 17 American drug companies to be more transparent about when and why they raise prices. The investors say rising costs are putting prescription drugs out of reach for many patients. The ICCR hopes the proposals are listed in company proxy statements and put to shareholder votes at annual meetings in spring 2017. Some state legislatures have already introduced bills requiring companies to justify price increases. ICCR member Catherine Rowan hopes they get enough votes to prod companies to adopt pricing-transparency policies. She added that congressional committees have called some pharmaceutical chief executives to testify and the legislative pressures are going to persist.
Bahrain-based Ibdar Bank has announced the acquisition of a $78-million multi-family housing property at Montgomery county in Maryland, USA. The area boasts the third-largest commercial downtown in the USA, being home to the headquarters of the White House, World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. Ahmed Al Rayes, acting chief executive of Ibdar Bank, said the acquisition was the Bank's first successful foray into the USA and was aligned with the Bank’s strategy to diversify its international real estate portfolio. Bassam Kameshki, the director of Real Estate at Ibdar, said the Bank has selected a straight forward asset class in a strategic location. The investment holding period will be up to 5 years. Besides real estate, Ibdar Bank is also engaged in private equity, capital markets and investment advisory activities.
A visiting team from the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) met Guyana's officials from the Ministry of Communities and the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CHPA) on Friday. Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan said the government recognises housing as a major public policy issue. He disclosed that the initial focus is the construction of 5,000 apartment units as part of medium terms plans to deliver 10,000 units to eligible Guyanese. He expressed optimism that components of the housing program will be included in Guyana’s eventual submission to the IsDB. IsDB's Director of Country Programs Department, Mohammad Alsaati, said that the bank was seeking for specific projects that can be undertaken in the near future and will work with the local stakeholders to develop worthwhile business opportunities.
More than 100 participants participated in the World Bank-Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB) High-Level Seminar on Islamic Finance and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on October 6. The Seminar was highlighted by a keynote address by his Royal Highness Muhammadu Sanusi II, the Emir of Kano and former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. The Emir stressed the potential of Islamic finance to mobilise much needed capital to achieve the SDGs. Ms. Arunma Oteh, the Vice President and Treasurer of the World Bank, similarly stressed the importance of Islamic finance as an agent for financial inclusion and for mobilising private investment in infrastructure. The panel discussion examined how countries are increasingly using Islamic finance to support developmental goals, and innovative sukuk structures supporting both physical and social infrastructure.
A group of nuns and other religiously-affiliated investors have lost faith in Wells Fargo and filed a shareholder resolution calling on the bank to report on a fake accounts scandal that led to a $190 million settlement. The bank employees opened as many as 2 million checking, savings and credit card accounts without the customers' permission in order to meet sales quotas. The San Francisco-based bank said it would provide more specifics on areas like its risk controls, but that did not happen. Wells Fargo's board has taken some steps since the settlement to address concerns, but the religious shareholders now say they need more changes. For instance another resolution filed by the Unitarian Universalist Association calls on Wells Fargo's board to study how to connect executive pay with ethical conduct.
The Central Bank of Suriname has granted the Trust Bank a licence to commence Islamic banking. Trust Bank plans to be in operation by the first quarter of 2017. A year ago, Trust Bank signed an advisory services agreement with the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), to support its conversion into Islamic compliant operations. CEO of Trust Bank, Maureen Badjoeri said that Trust Bank wants to facilitate SMEs in more ways than just financially. With this approach, SMEs will be able to start-up or expand production of goods and services with a spin-off in job creation, trade, export and adding to GDP growth. With the Trust Bank closer to reality, Suriname may emerge as a hub for Islamic banking and finance in the region.