The British press, amongst whom I counted myself for many happy years, does embarrass itself at times. A recent row over Shariah law in Britain has now spilt over onto the business pages, and the coverage does not show the media in the best light.
The British Government has been considering for some time the issue of sukuk as part of its overall budget strategy. Originally proposed by Ed Balls, a close ally of the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, it would be a shrewd move. The sukuk market is booming, moving beyond its origins in the Middle East to the great financial cities of the world. Virtually every Western bank is forming specialist Shariah-compliant products to tap into the huge pools of Middle East liquidity.
The City of London, as an innovator in global finances, wants to be part of this dynamic, growing market; the British Government is at the forefront of the new industry; and the British Chancellor, Alistair Darling, certainly needs the cash in his imminent budget. British sukuk issues look like sheer common sense.
Yet the UK press now present this as a plot by “wealthy middle eastern businessmen and banks” to gain ownership of “government buildings and other assets currently belonging to the British taxpayer”. What? A great Arab conspiracy to get their hands on London’s Whitehall, or the peaks of the Lake District?
We should be grateful to the British press for exposing this land-grab now, or who knows what target these conspirators might go for next – the London Stock Exchange maybe, or the P&O ports business, or even… (whisper it)… Harrods?
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