Germany’s Muslims are finally getting a bank offering financial products that comply with Shari’a law. It is a market worth billions, and one that many major banks around the world have long discovered.
There are four million Muslims living in Germany. They eat, drink and pray in accordance with the precepts of the Prophet Muhammad. But when it comes to monetary transactions, the principles of the Koran have played hardly any role in Germany. That is about to change.
Early next year, the first Islamic bank in Germany to offer products that are in compliance with Shari’a law will open its doors. The bank, Kuveyt Türk Beteiligungsbank, will open a branch in the downtown area of Mannheim, a city in western Germany, and branches in other cities are also planned.
The regulators with Germany’s Federal Financial Services Authority, known as BaFin, recently issued a limited license to the subsidiary of a Turkish-Kuwaiti bank. It is only permitted to collect funds that are transferred to accounts in Turkey that conform to Islamic rules.
With the Sharia-compliant market growing by up to 15 per cent a year and estimated to be worth a trillion dollars (Dh3.67tn) by 2010, the number of Islamic investment banks in the UK is predicted to double within five years, said Samer Merhi, the executive director of the Gatehouse Bank, an Islamic finance house based in the UK. It has the potential to grow because of the high demand and the interest to make the UK the international heart of Islamic finance business, Mr Merhi said at an Islamic finance forum in Kuala Lumpur last week. Gatehouse, a subsidiary of the Securities House of Kuwait, which started operating in London in April, is one of five Islamic investment banks based in the UK. There is also one fully fledged retail bank, the Islamic Bank of Britain, which became the first independent Islamic bank in Britain to register with the Financial Services Authority (FSA) in 2004. It was an institution established with considerable input from the Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank to give the two million-plus Muslims in the UK a bank of their own, although now more than 20 other conventional UK banks are offering customers Sharia-compliant products. With active encouragement from the government – and, particularly, then-chancellor Gordon Brown – the UK became the first EU member state to authorise Islamic banks. Though the French are now doing their best to catch up, it has maintained its lead by adopting a level regulatory playing field for both traditional and Sharia-compliant banks. David Sapsted reports.
Regulatory approval has been granted for the first ever specialist Islamic insurance provider in the UK, it has been announced. Principle Insurance has been cleared for business by the Financial Services Authority and will offer home insurance and motor insurance products. In keeping with Shariah law, the firm will not use interest and will shun investments in sectors that contravene Islamic principles, such as breweries. Bradley Brandon Cross, chief executive of the firm, said the launch of the company will mean that the two million UK-based Muslims will now be able to use insurance policies that do not compromise their religion. He said: “We estimate that in excess of 500,000 British Muslims are car owners and, with motor insurance being a legal requirement, these consumers currently have to buy motor insurance that compromises their beliefs.http://themuslimweekly.com/newsdetails/fullstoryview.aspx?NewsID=C1B0E112930120554FD5DF81&MENUID=HOMENEWS&DESCRIPTION=UK%20News