Indian ministry to discuss developing Islamic endowments for large Muslim minority

February 28, 2014

(Muslims pray at the Jama Masjid (Grand Mosque) during Eid al-Fitr, in the old quarter of Delhi August 31, 2011. REUTERS/Vijay Mathur )

India’s Ministry of Minority Affairs has enlisted a Kuala Lumpur-based body to help develop Islamic endowments, or awqaf, aiming to mobilise a large pool of assets in a country that is home to one of the biggest Muslim populations in the world.

The World Islamic Economic Forum Foundation, which organises conferences and workshops on Muslim business around the world, will hold a roundtable later this year to discuss ways to improve management of India’s estimated 490,000 waqf properties.

Institutions such as the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank, Malaysia’s Hajj Pilgrim Fund and its largest state-owned fund manager Permodalan Nasional Bhd will attend the event, the WIEFF says.

Awqaf exist around the world, receiving donations from Muslims to operate social projects such as mosques, schools and welfare schemes. They have amassed huge holdings of real estate, commercial enterprises, cash, equities and other assets.

But in many cases the management of these assets remains primitive; money is often tied up in property or bank deposits that earn miniscule or even zero returns, imposing economic costs on local economies.

India, with an estimated 177 million Muslims, has a large base of awqaf but many of their assets are far from being employed efficiently; their estimated annual income is just 1.63 billion rupees ($26.3 million).

Last month, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inaugurated the National Wakaf Development Corporation, which the Ministry of Minority Affairs established to help management of the properties become more transparent.

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