By S.N. Syed
Political and business leaders from across the Muslim world gathered at ExCel in London this week at the 9th WIEF, entitled â€œChanging Worlds, New Relationships.â€ Participants came together to discuss issues ranging from Islamic finance and banking to the emerging halal industry to the role of emerging Muslim economic power in Western markets like London.
2013 represents the first time the WIEF has left the Muslim world, highlighting the growing importance of London as a hub for Islamic finance, investment, and commerce. The Forum attracted >2700 delegates (including 18 Global Leaders, such as the Presidents or Prime Ministers of Malaysia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Morocco, Great Britain, Kosovo, Bosnia, as well as the Sultan of Brunei, King of Jordan, and Crown Princes of Bahrain and the UK) from 128 countries, representing new heights for the event.
The attendance of so many dignitaries underscored the growing global role of Islamic capital and institutions and the importance of both intra-Islamic interfaces and further engagement with non-Muslim economies. Prime Minister David Cameron of the UK noted, that despite resistance from some domestic quarters to investment from Muslims, â€œFar from weakening our industrial base, that investment actually strengthens it. Islamic investment is already fundamental to our success.â€
The Forum also served as a matchmaking opportunity for investors and businesses focused on the Muslim world. Investment opportunities in market such as Kosovo, Afghanistan and Bosnia were highlighted throughout the Forum. In addition, the exhibition area featured globally relevant ventures such as zakat-specialized accounting/auditing services.
The highlight of the event came in an address by HRH Prince Charles of Wales to the Forum on Tuesday evening. The Crown Prince spoke extensively about the role of Islamic principles in shaping the global economy. In particular, he highlighted the potential positive impact of properly implemented Islamic principles, finance, and financing on solving our environmental and climate related challenges, calling the current global overuse of natural resources or capital â€œusuriousâ€ in some senses. The Crown Prince noted that the need for a sense or pursuit of justice as found in the Islamic tradition has never been greater.
As noted by the Managing Director of Malaysiaâ€™s Khazanah sovereign wealth fund, Tan Sri Dato Azman Bin HJ Mokhtar, â€œIslam is neither East nor West. We need to find a middle way between socialism and capitalism, and we can find a lot of that in our traditions.â€