Islamic finance is not only important for Muslims but also good for the benefit of both the global and emerging economies, the head of Borsa Istanbul said on Tuesday.
Ibrahim Turhan was speaking at a major conference on Islamic finance being held in Istanbul.
Turhan said: "We have to develop an alternative in order to cope with the existing problems of the world economy.
"Islamic finance can be a very good opportunity which will facilitate emerging markets," he added.
Sharia-compliant finance avoids charging interest, which is 'haram' [forbidden] in Islam.
Professor Salih Tug of Marmara University’s Faculty of Theology told the first session of the conference how banking has changed in Western world.
During the 15th and 16th centuries both Christians and Jews focused on creating an interest-free economy, based on their holy books, he said.
"After the 15th century, things changed and the interest-free system was replaced by interest-based system, which opened the gates to a new capital system which focused on generating and collecting interest."
Stating that today the world has "this Western type of banking", Tug said:
"The Islamic world is now taking active steps to realize interest-free banking, encouraging people to engage in interest-free activities and creating interest-free financing."
Also speaking at the conference was the Mufti of Istanbul, Rahmi Yaran, who said that Islam determined one's world view concerning all spheres of life, stressing that there are certain principles for a Muslim person in economic life.
"Interest is of course familiar to Islamic society, however, Allah has forbidden it (...) The Quran says interest is against the faith, and says if a person is a real believer, he should avoid what remains from interest," he said.
Speaking later, Turkey’s Capital Markets Board chairman Vahdettin Ertas compared European financial centers with those in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, claiming Istanbul ranks 42nd among all global financial centers.
He said with the Istanbul Financial Center Project, the aim is to establish Istanbul as a regional financial center and then a global financial hub by 2023.
A signing ceremony was also held between Capital Markets Board of Turkey and the Qatar Financial Markets Authority.
"This is a good start to strengthen cooperation between the two authorities," said Ertas adding that Qatar is a significant Gulf country for Turkey.