I am very pleased to be here today.

And I believe it is very appropriate that we are holding the 6th World Islamic Economic Forum.

It is appropriate that modern day Muslim nations meet to trade and invest with one another.

And it is appropriate that we also gather here to forge ties with nations of other faiths, just as Muslims have done over thousands of years.

It was through trade and commerce that Islam was introduced to many parts of the world.

The spice trade brought Islam to Central and South East Asia, China and sub-Saharan Africa.

And it was trade that brought Islam to the Maldives.

In the 12th Century, Arab traders and merchants were attracted to Maldives because of our abundant supply of Cowry shells.

Cowry shells were used at the time as an international currency.

The Maldives was also a convenient place for merchants, crossing from the Spice Islands to the Middle East, to rest and wait for the Monsoon winds to guide them back home.

Ibn Battuta, who travelled to the Maldives in 14th Century, was impressed by combs made from turtle shell, as well as rope and fibres, which were exported abroad.

It was through this early process of globalisation, that Islam was introduced to the then Buddhist Maldives.

To my mind, Islam and commerce are synonymous.

Koran is explicit about correct terms of trade and commerce.

I believe that Muslim people have a strong culture of commerce.

In the past, trade brought Islam, and Islam brought greater trade.

And across the Muslim world today, we see new signs of investment and prosperity.

The signs of growing Muslim prosperity are everywhere: from the glittering desert cities of the Arabian peninsular, to the vibrant export economies of Malaysia and Indonesia.

Muslim diasporas in Europe, and particularly in North America, are also taking advantage of the free market, using their entrepreneurial zeal to flourish.

Some people belittle Muslims and Islam - they like to portray Muslims as backward and impoverished people.

But the evidence points to the contrary.

Muslims and Muslim countries are flourishing.

And as Muslims, we can be confident in trading and investing with one another.

In the Maldives, we have been open to the world; and the world has always been open to us.

In previous centuries, the Maldives exported Cowry shells and provided respite for sailors.

Today, the mainstays of our export-orientated economy are tuna and tourism.

We export our tuna, caught with pole and line, around the world.

Because our fish is caught sustainably, it is some of the best tuna available on the market.

And we export luxury tourism; as people flock to the Maldives to enjoy our beaches and dive in our seas.

The Maldives has more to offer than tuna and tourism, however.

And as we open our economy up to foreign investment, there are new opportunities for collaboration.

For the past three decades, the Maldives was a relatively closed economy.

Foreign investment in tourism was permitted, but the state controlled most other industries.

We believe that the free market is the most efficient and effective mechanism to deliver goods and services.

And so, since my administration took over in 2008, we have introduced a radical programme of privatization and public-private partnerships.

And we are offering investment opportunities across the board: from housing to hotels; from energy to education.

Maldivians – like our fellow brothers across the world - have always been entrepreneurial people.

I believe we should build on the energy, dynamism and creativity of the Muslim peoples.

And this conference is the perfect place to start.

And so I thank you for inviting me here today.

And I look forward to our discussions over the coming days.

Thank you