The United States: An undiscovered market for Islamic finance?

Is the United States an undiscovered market for Islamic finance? That’s the question a group of industry professionals convened to answer on November 4 at the inaugural Islamic Finance Conference in Washington, DC. The event, whose program included sessions exploring everything from how to source Islamic capital in the United States to the relationship between socially responsible investing and Islam, was intended to serve as a meeting place to help interested parties come together and advance the cause of Islamic finance in the U.S.

“It’s really about creating opportunities for everyone,” said Roy Michael, executive director of the Malaysia-US Chamber of Commerce. “The chamber recognizes the potential value of developing Islamic capital markets in the United States. Our goal is to play a constructive role and to facilitate growth.”

Michael went on to say that the chamber wanted to make the event a “meeting of the minds,” bringing leaders from Malaysia, which has a highly developed Islamic economy, to interact with political and business leaders in the United States, which still lags East Asia, Gulf Cooperation Council nations, and even much of Europe in terms of Islamic financial products. Globally, Islamic finance is $2 trillion industry, including asset management and infrastructure projects. There are roughly 600 financial institutions operating in more than 75 jurisdictions globally.

According to Michael, the conference was successful at creating an avenue for engagement among key financial players, while also promoting Islamic financial instruments—for example, Sukuk—in the United States.

Among the many notable conference participants were David Vicary Abdullah, president and CEO of INCEIF, the global Islamic university based in Malaysia, and state Senator Kevin Parker, a New York state legislator who has advanced a proposal to launch the first municipal sukuk in the United States. Prominent individuals from the Malaysian banking sector, as well as the Malaysian Embassy in Washington, DC, were in attendance.

Beyond dialogue and building business partnerships, the Chamber would reportedly like to use the event as a springboard for the creation of a permanent advocacy wing dedicated to the promotion of Islamic finance in the United States. “The conference isn’t just about getting together once in a while to touch base,” say Michael. “It’s about starting down the long road of building real and lasting growth in the United States.”

“Islamic Finance: An Undiscovered Market in the United States” was held on November 4,, 2013, at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC. More information is available at www.myuscham.org.

 

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