Islamic finance moves into mainstream as investors seek ethical alternatives

 

Our correspondent looks at the steady rise of Sharia-compliant banking across Britain

Islamic finance, although tied to religious law, is no longer a niche product

Amjid Ali tells a story about when he was setting up the UK operations of HSBC Amanah, HSBC’s Islamic bank, in 2003. Mr Ali, now a senior manager at the global Amanah business, said: “I had a young, white, Christian man working with me. His surname was Bacon, which wasn’t ideal, but he embedded himself in the community so well that he became known as Mr Halal Bacon.”

His point was that although Islamic, or Sharia-compliant, finance was designed to enable Muslims to buy financial products that comply with the tenets of their religon, it is no longer a niche business. “There’s no need to be Muslim to work here or to buy the products,” Mr Ali said.

The global Islamic finance market is growing at 15 per cent a year and is expected to be worth $1,000 billion by 2010. In the UK it has grown to more than £500 million. A recent Mintel report said that 400,000 Muslims in Britain held Islamic products.

Moreover, although the official estimate of the Muslim population in the UK is two million, it is likely to be closer to three million, which means that there is a huge potential market

 

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