The 2-day Asian segment of the World Islamic Banking Conference (WIBC) will begin in Singapore today, featuring lumunaries from Islamic Banking around the world and the Singapore Government.

The Conference, which has been running for 17 years, will look at how Islamic Finance might bridge the gap between the Middle East and Asia, and not just culturally. Given that these two regions are among the world’s fastest growing and currently most prosperous, the WIBC will also be looking for new ways to unite the industry and attract the increasing amounts of wealth looking beyond traditional forms of investment.

WIBC is owned by Middle East Global Advisors (MEGA) and the event is sponsored but the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

In other signs Islamic Finance’s potential is attracting more attention in the Southeast Asian region: the Indonesian Government plans to issue almost US$1.1 billion in Islamic bonds (sukuk) this year. Australia, which does not yet have an active Islamic Banking industry, wants to become a player alongside (or above) local leader Malaysia, with the government due to recommend in a report this month that Islamic Finance products receive equal treatment to ‘conventional’ ones under Australian tax law. Australian banks Westpac and Macquarie Group have already dipped their toes in the water, announcing limited investment products and joint ventures with foreign institutions.