This news sort of went under the radar but is very very important for many reasons. But first the announcement by Barclays and I quote:
LONDON (Reuters) - Barclays said on Monday its funds arm has launched the UK's first Shariah-compliant exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and that it has formed a panel of Islamic scholars to supervise such products.
Shariah forbids Muslims receiving interest payments and from investing in companies involved in the production or sale of pork, alcohol, tobacco, pornography, gambling and non-Islamically structured finance or life insurance.
Barclays Global Investors BGI said the panel has issued a fatwah (edict) on the three new ETFs, which will track MSCI indexes of Shariah-compliant companies.
These are the iShares MSCI World Islamic, which consists of 793 stocks; the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Islamic, tracking an index of 306 stocks; and the iShares MSCI USA Islamic, with 276 stocks.
ETFs are index-based mutual funds that trade on exchanges like stocks and which offer investors exposure to a sector or market without the holder having to own the underlying asset.
They have become very popular in recent years, thanks to their low fees.
The panel, which comprises Islamic scholars Dr Mohammed Elgari, Sheikh Nizam Yacuby and Dr Abu Ghuddah, will certify that products are Shariah-compliant, provide advice on fund operations and investment methods, and carry out overall supervision of funds' compliance with Shariah principles. "Islamic finance represents a very big opportunity for the London market, with a growth rate of around 10-15 percent and a market size of 250 billion pounds."
More comments here:
Commenting on the launch, David Shrimpton head of product management and development at the LSE, said “The launch marks another important step in London’s development as a global centre for Islamic finance. For the first time both British Muslims and the growing number of investors from the Middle East accessing our markets can benefit from the low-cost, instant diversification offered by a range of ETFs while investing in a way that is consistent with Shari’ah principles.
“The range of Shari’ah compliant products listed on the LSE’s main market continues to grow. In the past year and a half we have admitted 14 Islamic finance instruments, or sukuk, to trading on our markets, which have raised in excess of £5 billion.”
The LSE is playing a key part in the drive by the UK Government and the City to enhance London's position as a global gateway for Islamic finance, and is part of HM Treasury’s Islamic Finance Experts Group, which is currently examining the feasibility of the UK Government becoming an issuer of wholesale sterling Islamic financial instruments.
The UK was the first European country to develop a tax system designed to remove obstacles to the development of Islamic finance and the first in Europe to authorise wholesale and retail Islamic banks.
For the first time, a common investment product based upon exchange trading, regulated and available worldwide under stringent regulatory protections is available. Very soon, the standardisation of this market will be driven by the market and not by some odd sod scholars who are busy throwing theological stones at each other. ETF's are extremely transparent and since it is market regulated, the imposition of a structure will mean that this rather ad-hoc market will be managed properly.
All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!