Sunday, September 27, 2009

France seeks to woo Islamic finance: AFP

As France debates whether to ban the burqa, the government is leading a drive to attract billions in investment from Muslim countries by turning Paris into the European capital of Islamic finance. The French parliament this month has approved changes to legislation to allow Islamic "sukuk" bonds to be issued and the Qatar Islamic Bank has applied to be the first such bank to open in France, reports AFP.

Home to Europe's biggest Muslim minority, France is hoping to unseat London as the European hub for Islamic banking, offering products that comply with Sharia law and meet the needs of big investors mostly from Gulf countries. But the drive is raising hackles, with some opposition politicians accusing the government of undermining France's much prized secularism to accommodate wealthy interests, the report said.
"When rich Muslims are concerned, we welcome them. But when they are poor, we put them on planes and deport them. This is all very upsetting," it quoted Socialist deputy Henri Emmanuelli.

After failing to garner enough votes to derail the bill, the Socialist opposition is challenging the legality of the new legislation on Islamic finance before the Constitutional Council. "We must not allow principles of Sharia law, or the ethics of the Koran to be introduced into French law," said Emmanuelli.

The report added that economists argue that money raised through Islamic finance could help spur France's nascent recovery with tools that are seen as financially sounder than the high-risk derivatives that led to the 2008 global meltdown.
Elyes Jouini, an author of a report presented to the government last year, estimates that France could tap into 120 billion euros in capital from Islamic finance by making adjustments to its tax and banking laws.

Only seven billion euros of those would be raised domestically among France's five million Muslims.
"There are extremely important financial reserves in Gulf countries and southeast Asia and these countries are ready to invest anywhere but they have specific rules in terms of ethics and in terms of the choice of investment," said Jouini, the report said.

No comments: