Bashar Qasem is the most outspoken voice among Muslim investors in the United States. He was the only Islamic financial representative among religious shareholder advocates who sent a letter in February to protest U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban. Qasem's Azzad Asset Management firm started its work in 2005, weighing in on issues like worker safety, climate change and lobbying disclosures. This direct advocacy will test whether U.S. Muslim investors will support the sort of faith-based shareholder activism common among other religious groups. Qasem's strategy appears to be helping to differentiate his firm from other asset management firms. Azzad's assets increased 11% in 2016 to US$487 million (£393 million) at year-end. Growth included US$5.7 million into the firm’s mutual funds, the third consecutive year of inflows.
Western media should apologise for misleading the Malaysian public after a US$681 million deposit was found to be a “genuine donation”, Mr Najib’s press secretary said on Friday, April 15. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubier had earlier confirmed that the millions found in PM Najib’s bank account was a donation originating from Saudi Arabia. In a statement, Tengku Sariffuddin accused former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad of carrying out a smear campaign against Mr Najib which is being motivated by "personal interest". Najib has been facing allegations of graft after reports claimed that the funds found in his personal bank account originated from troubled state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
The Malaysian Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) on July 9 said that six bank accounts, ordered frozen on Monday as part of a 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) probe, were not linked to the prime minister, as his accounts with AmBank Islamic had already been closed by then. The task force is investigating allegations in a report by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) that up to US$700 million from state-owned fund 1MDB had been transferred to Mr Najib for personal use. Mr Najib refuted the accusations in a statement on Wednesday, reiterating he had never obtained funds from 1MDB for his personal gain. The AGC also detailed items seized in a raid of the 1MDB office in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, including minutes of meetings of the 1MDB Board of Directors.
Experts say the growth potential for Islamic finance in Singapore is still strong. Sukuk or Islamic bond issuances totalled US$137 billion in 2012, up from US$92b in 2011. Yet there is still a gap to fill in the Islamic capital market. According to Mr Ng Nam Sin, Assistant Managing Director (Development) at the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the increased volume of issuance is still insufficient to meet the huge demand for Islamic assets for investments and Islamic financial institutions to manage their liabilities. Moreover, there is also a need to broaden the range of Islamic capital market products. Singapore already has the right infrastructure and good regulations already in place. Experts say Singapore's strong regulatory environment and the depth and diversity of its capital markets will enable it to capture a bigger slice of the Islamic financing market.
Although Islamic banking has been gaining worldwide popularity in recent years, it still faces considerable challenges in raising profitability. Last year, a record US$144 billion worth of new Sukuk, or Islamic bonds, were issued worldwide and experts believe 2013 is likely to be another record year of issuances. Besides wholesale banking, there are opportunities in Islamic wealth management, especially in centres like Singapore. According to Ernst & Young, the largest markets for Islamic banking in asset terms are Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar. However, most Islamic banks have not been as profitable as their conventional banking counterparts. Experts said this could be because of a weak risk culture, lack of scalability and poorer asset quality.
The Islamic Bank of Asia (IBA), a unit of DBS, said its CEO Vince Cook has quit for personal reasons and Friday is his last day with the bank.