Although primarily concentrated in Muslim counties, Islamic banking and finance (IBF) has become a global industry representing both a decentering of the global financial architecture and the emergence of an alternative global-urban network. While geographers have identified the “Mecca’s” of IBF, there remains a need to investigate the constituent elements and processes that define Islamic finance and determine its spatial manifestation organization, as well as the factors which differentiate its global-urban landscape from conventional financial centers. This includes traditional locational factors – the presence of IBF firms and financial professionals, consumer markets, and regulators – but also more dynamic and ephemeral elements, including the significance of global shari’a scholar networks, the nature of secondary bond (sukuk) markets, and the role of governing bodies. Therefore, we examine the urban manifestation of the global IBF industry through a comparative study of leading centers in Manama, Bahrain, and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. By presenting results from a survey of financial firms and key-informant interviews with industry actors, it assesses both cities as separate entities to determine geographic variation between centers, while also identifying the similarities between the two, uncovering the essential elements of Islamic financial centers and the various pathways to creation and niches they occupy.

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