MANAMA, (Reuters) – Total assets held by Islamic banks in Bahrain grew 50 percent during 2008 compared with the previous year, the central bank said in a statement. Total assets were $24.6 billion at the end of 2008, compared with $16.43 billion at the end of 2007.
Central bank data showed growth was mostly due to an increase in foreign assets that rose to $12.8 billion from $6.9 billion at the end of 2007. There are 33 licenced Islamic banks in Bahrain, which competes with Dubai of the United Arab Emirates to be the Gulf Arab region’s main banking center.
The island kingdom has established itself as an off-shore banking hub, partly to offer financial services to Saudi Arabia’s oil wealth.
Islamic banking caters to investors who want to avoid paying or earning interest, viewed as usury under Islamic law.