The US has seen two major sukuk (Islamic bond) issuances including the East Cameron Gas Sukuk, which was the first ever musharakah sukuk in America backed by oil and gas assets maturing in 2006 and the General Electric Sukuk, which is an ijarah sukuk backed by aircraft leases due for maturity in November, 2014. Although the Cameron Gas Sukuk experienced some technical difficulties, the General Electric Sukuk is performing well and there is a large potential for sukuk in the United States as a capital raising instrument for American firms. In fact, Americans are already investing in structures that resemble sukuk structures. In terms of Canada, there have been no sukuk issuances and there are no Islamic banks while the US has three Islamic Banks including University Bank and Devon Bank in Chicago and Lariba in California. Canada has witnessed a few failed Islamic banking attempts including the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) and the UM Financial scandal. The only positive ruling for Islamic finance in Canada thus far has been the permission of Islamic mortgages under Canadian law. Aside from constitutional hurdles and the lack of regulations and laws, which permit Islamic banking in North America, many people have a fear of Islam and the words Shariáh and Islamic. However, as a US Citizen, I would like to clarify that Islam means peace and that there is nothing to be afraid about Shariáh as there is nothing to be scared about Jewish or Christian laws. The laws of the Holy Books promote peace, harmony, justice, and the equitable spread of wealth across society. In fact introducing Islamic finance may benefit certain sections of society, which have been excluded or limited in the current financial system.
In terms of marketing Islamic finance in North America, a soft approach, which relates Islam to some aspect of the target market may be more successful than hard marketing. Marketing Islamic finance in a lighter image with some aspect or element of “cool’” through a neutral platform may be more effective in terms of introducing products into North America. In addition, presenting Islamic finance as a form of Holy Book Banking, including the teachings of the Bible, Torah, and the Qu’ran may be more of an effective approach for the US and Canadian markets rather than introducing this concept under the title of Islamic finance. The concept of Risalah in Islam states to acknowledge the teachings of all of God’s Prophets including Moses and Jesus recognizing Muhammad (pbuh) as the last Prophet. Overall, there is a huge potential for Islamic finance in the US and Canada despite the constitutional, legal, and regulatory hurdles and Islamaphobia if marketed and presented properly. Contact Islamic finance expert and lawyer Camille Paldi at firstname.lastname@example.org and please refer to the Franco-American Alliance for Islamic Finance (FAAIF) at http://www.faaif.com.
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