An advisor to Goldman Sachs has defended the U.S. bank's $2 billion Islamic bond programme against criticism it may contravene religious principles, in a controversy that could affect Western banks' ability to enter the Islamic debt market.

In October, Goldman registered the sukuk programme with the Irish Stock Exchange. It set up a Cayman Islands-registered special purpose vehicle, Global Sukuk Co Ltd, to issue a sukuk based on murabaha, a cost-plus-profit arrangement which complies with Islamic law.

Some analysts however have suggested Goldman might use the proceeds of the issue to lend money to clients for interest, which would be against Islamic law, and that the issue might not trade at par value on the Irish exchange, which would also contravene sharia law.

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