Gordon Brown has celebrated the invaluable contribution of the Muslim community and put forward an ambition to make Britain the global gateway to Islamic finance and trade.
Speaking at the Islamic Finance and Track Conference in London, the chancellor of the exchequer thanked the Muslim community for their enormous contribution to the British economy.
He said: We have all learnt much from your entrepreneurial flair and talent.
It is a fact that business creation is higher in the Muslim community than in many other sections of our society, and I know that British Muslims are playing a vital role in the next stage of Britain’s economic development.
Brown set out the ambition of the two-day conference to advance the ambition for Britain to be the global gateway to Islamic finance and trade.
He added that the ambition was realistic and realisable, and one he believes Britain is well placed to realise.
Britain is already the largest European trader with many Islamic countries. It is the largest European investor in Oman, the largest non-Arab investor in Egypt, and second largest global investor in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
British trade with Arab countries has grown 60% in the last five years, while at the same time exports to Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and Bangladesh grew to nearly 3bn in 2005 and to North Africa to over 1bn.
Despite this, Brown believes there is still more to be done.
He said: I, like you, want to see Britain’s strong economic ties with Muslim countries strengthen still further.
Trade and commerce are the foundation for economic growth and long-term prosperity – for Britain and all countries.
It is increasing world trade – growing over the past two decades at twice the rate of output – that is driving the transformation of the global economy.
He also outlined what needs to be done to realise the ambition of enhanced trade that todays conference has set.
This included strengthening Britain’s own trading links with Muslim countries and making Britain the global centre for Islamic finance.
He said: Our unique qualities – our language and geography, our stability and openness to the world, our inventiveness and flexibility – have given the City of London its historic advantage, the first mover advantage, of already being, along with New York, the leading global financial centre for established markets.
Now by showing the same qualities, London can be the location of choice for emerging markets – from India and China, to Eastern Europe, and the Middle East and Muslim countries all over the world.
Today British banks are pioneering Islamic banking – London now has more banks supplying services under Islamic principles than any other Western financial centre.