April 6th 2011

Islamic finance and the Public Good

islamic finance

In March, Ann Pettifor was honoured to be invited by Ms Zarinah Anwar CEO of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Malaysia, and Dr Farhan Nizami of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies to attend a conference at Ditchley Park on “Shariah, Finance and the Public Good”.

But before the hard work of deliberation, delegates attended a splendid dinner at the Banqueting House, Whitehall, where they were welcomed by His Royal Highness, Dr Raja Nazrin Shah, Crown Prince of Perak, Malaysia.

In an opening address HRH asked the group to consider whether transfers of ‘artificial wealth’ served the public good; and whether Islamic finance could be distinguished from conventional finance? Prince Nazrin Shah suggested that trust in financial services has all but evaporated, and that such trust would not be restored until finance could demonstrate its concern with the public good.

Delegates were Islamic Finance professionals based at western banks, including the Global CEO of HSBC Amanah, Mukhtar Hussein and David Vicary Abdullah of Deloitte; Islamic Finance practitioners such as Iqbal Khan of Fajr Capital; Shariah scholars and economists – from all parts of the globe.


Together they deliberated at great length whether Islamic finance “is consistent with what is universally deemed good.”

They were led in their thinking by Professor Simon Archer, of the University of Reading who has extensive experience of working with Islamic finance institutions in the Middle East, and by the wise and distinguished Prof. Dr Hashim Kamali, Chairman of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies in Kuala Lumpur.

Professor Volker Nienhaus (also of the University of Reading) reflected on the failures of several Islamic financial institutions, and on whether ‘the public good’ was too abstract a concept for Islamic bankers.

For Ann this was an enormously stimulating and thoughtful event. I only wish that there were more such encounters between western bankers, their financial regulators and western faith institutions.

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