LONDON: Prime Minister David Cameron says he wants to turn Britain into the world centre of Islamic finance and is proud that UK is helping Pakistan with its taxpayers’ money to send hundreds of thousands of children to school.
Speaking to guests at his annual Eidul-Azha reception in Downing Street, the prime minister said that Britain was helping Islamic countries, including Pakistan and Afghanistan, to stand on their feet and had increased the development aid budget to show solidarity with these struggling countries. Over a hundred leading members of the British Pakistani and Muslim community were present at the reception.
They were joined by senior government ministers, including Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Imams, community and business leaders, charities and public servants from across the diverse range of Muslim communities in the UK.
PM Cameron announced plans to make government finance schemes available to Islamic students and entrepreneurs. He said student loans, start-up loans and the enterprise allowance would be made compatible with the religion’s strict rules on finance.
The prime minister said he wanted the UK to be a world centre for Islamic finance and it was in this spirit that a historic conference on Islamic global finance will be held in London in few days. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, besides several other government dignitaries from Islamic countries, will speak at the conference.
Cameron said: “I want Britain to be one of the world’s centres of Islamic finance - from the highest and mightiest financial institutions all the way to start-ups. The prime minister said: “I’m proud of the that fact that even in difficult economic times this country is one of the few countries in the world that has kept its promise on aid and development - meeting that 0.7% target of our gross national income. A lot of that money goes to some of the most challenged Islamic countries in the world. It is something that we can all be proud that every two seconds a child is vaccinated somewhere in the world because of aid that British tax payers have provided.”
“We’ve got tens of thousands of young people starting their own businesses and tonight I can announce that we will make sure that there is a type of start-up loan that is totally consistent with all the principles of Islamic finance. We must do that for start-up loans, we must do that for student loans and we must do it for the enterprise allowance. That’s what a welcoming, tolerant, multi-racial country does.”
Praising the Muslim community for their contribution to Britain, the prime minister said: “Tonight is about celebrating the contribution that British Muslims make to our country. It is a huge contribution. But tonight is also an opportunity to talk about the issues of integration, of how we help Muslims around the world and the importance of faith in our country and in our communities and the Muslim faith is so strong in that.”
Prime Minister Cameron spoke about the strength of the faith, especially the Abrahamic faiths who have “so much in common”. He shared his experience of helping to prepare Iftari this year on Eidul Fiter in Manchester. The PM said lightly that he was scared when he was asked to cut onions to prepare pakoras and samosas. That could have become the “worst television moment” because there was a danger of “cutting my finger” or “start crying”. But, he said, opening up to all communities to see how Muslim celebrate Ramazan was a brilliant idea.
Dr Waqar Azmi OBE introduced the prime minister to the guests and called him a “friend of the Muslim community” who led from the front after the Woolwich killing and said that terrorists have nothing to do with Islam.
Addressing PM Cameron, Dr Azmi said: “You showed true leadership when you said on the steps of Downing Street that the Woolwich attack was a ‘betrayal of Islam’. This resonated with everyone in the Muslim community. We value your support for the British Muslim community.
Your statement on the Mosque being built in your constituency in Chipping Norton is a good example. It is moments like this that we know that the British Muslim community has a friend in you. Thank you.”Prior to PM Cameron’s speech, a dua was offered and verses from the Holy Book of Quran were read.
(The International News / 23 Oct 2013)
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