CAIRO: Egypt’s political powers expressed their support for the Egyptian Stock Exchange at a press conference Monday, as the Islamist parties, which dominate parliament, pointed out that trading in the exchange is "Sharia-compliant," or permissible in Islam.
Tareq Shaalan, coordinator of the planning committee of Al-Nour Party, pointed out that a new award will be introduced to the Sharia-compliant banks or companies with the best performing portfolios in the stock market.
"With that being said, that the trading in the bourse is halal, we want to encourage trading so we plan to introduce an award for the companies which are fully Sharia-compliant, and companies will be judged on their performance," he said.
Shaalan compared the new award to the Malcolm Baldridge award, presented by the Baldridge mission in the United States, which aims to improve competiveness and performance among businesses.
Islamist parties, winning at least 70 percent of the parliament seats so far in the multistage elections, came to show their support for the stock market, which they see as a "vital component of a thriving economy."
"I’ve been investing in the stock market since 1996; there is a fatwa from the Salafi movement that clearly states that the bourse is halal, and our presence here to show our support," said Mahmoud Abbas, Al-Nour representative from El-Raml district in the city of Alexandria.
Ashraf El-Sharkawy, head of the Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority, pointed out that Dow Jones "even has indicators that advise traders on which companies are Sharia-compliant."
"The principle goal of the bourse is to activate and boost the economy, thus creating jobs; I believe this is one of the main goals of all political parties, despite differences in ideologies," he said.
Adel Hamed, assistant coordinator for the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) in Cairo, also underlined that it is not the role of political parties to dictate what is "halal" or permissible.
"It is the role of religious institutions like Al-Azhar or the Church to decide these kind of things, not the political powers," he said. "The Islamist front represents moderation; we don’t say what is halal or haram [sinful]."
Hamed also added that most Egyptians shy away from the bourse, not because of it being religiously permissible or not, but because many are living under the poverty rate.
"We are encouraging companies to invest, to create more jobs and increase productivity because Egypt now is a consuming country, we hope to change this and boost production," he said.
The political parties present at the conference included the Free Egyptians Party, the more liberal front, Al-Wasat, Freedom and Justice Party, which is associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, and the ultra-conservative Al-Nour Party.
The Muslim Brotherhood accused both local and international media of falsely making claims that Islamist parties are against the stock market.
"This is a sign to everyone; the fear that exists from Islamists, which is media-made, is a false fear… our presence today is the biggest indicator that we support the bourse and we hope investments do start returning to the market in order to create more jobs for all Egyptians, regardless of their stance on politics,” said Hamed.
"The media sometimes likes to show that the Egyptian people are afraid of Islamists, but the true Egyptians are not, they gave us their voice after all," he added.
Hany Serageldin, a member of the Free Egyptians Party, also present at the conference, said that the economy will not be where it needs to be unless the country is ruled by an elected, civilian government.
"Our vision is to enhance the economy in the next months and the solution is not purely economic, to achieve this we have to work on political stability, I can’t expect investments to come when there is not clarity and this is why we need a transition to an elected, civilian government soon," he said.
Essam Sultan, vice president of Al-Wasat, a party with more centrist views, pointed out that they support a free economy in Egypt.
"We all support our market and Egyptian society, there is a unified front here today; just like we stood together in Tahrir, we are standing here today to help our economy because we want to see Egypt move forward," said Sultan.