| | | |
By Chelsea Schilling
November 05, 2008
The Treasury Department has announced it will teach "Islamic finance" to U.S. banking regulatory agencies, Congress and other parts of the executive branch today in Washington, D.C. - but critics say it is opening a door to American funding of Islamic extremism.
'Islamic Finance 101'
According to its announcement, the "Islamic Finance 101" forum is "designed to help inform the policy community about Islamic financial services, which are an increasingly important part of the global financial industry."
The Treasury Department has collaborated with Harvard University's Islamic Finance Project to coordinate the event. The department says it expects about 100 people will attend the seminar.
Some speakers include Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Neel Kashkari, senior adviser to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Jr.; Harvard Business School professor Samuel Hayes; Mahmoud El-Gamal, chair of Islamic economics, finance and management at Rice University and Islamic finance adviser to the Treasury Department; Sarah Bell of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York; Yusuf Talal DeLorenzo, Shariah adviser and Islamic scholar; Michael McMillan, chair of the Islamic Legal Forum at the American Bar Association and professor of Islamic finance; and Rushdi Siddiqui, global director for the Dow Jones Islamic Market Indexes and vigorous advocate for Islamic finance.
Islamic finance is a system of banking consistent with the principles of Shariah, or Islamic law. It is becoming increasingly popular, having reached $800 billion by mid-2007 and growing at more than 15 percent each year. Wall Street now features an Islamic mutual fund and an Islamic index. However, critics claim anti-American terrorists are often financially supported through U.S. investments - creating a system by which the nation funds its own enemy.
Aiding the enemy
In his essay, "Financial Jihad: What Americans Need to Know," Vice President Christopher Holton of the Center for Security Policy writes, "America is losing the financial war on terror because Wall Street is embracing a subversive enemy ideology on one hand and providing corporate life support to state sponsors of terrorism on the other hand."
Holton refers to Islamic finance, or "Shariah-Compliant Finance" as a "modern-day Trojan horse" infiltrating the U.S. He said it poses a threat to the U.S. because it seeks to legitimize Shariah - a man-made medieval doctrine that regulates every aspect of life for Muslims - and could ultimately change American life and laws.
Shariah-compliant finance is becoming a major movement, because American banks and investors are seeking wealth from oil profits in the Middle East. Some advocates claim Islamic finance is socially responsible because it bans investors from funding companies that sell or promote products such as alcohol, tobacco, pornography, gambling and even pork.
However, Islamic financial institutions also require all industry participants to adhere to tenets of Shariah law. According to Nasser Suleiman's "Corporate Governance in Islamic Banking, "First and foremost, an Islamic organization must serve God. It must develop a distinctive corporate culture, the main purpose of which is to create a collective morality and spirituality which, when combined with the production of goods and services, sustains growth and the advancement of the Islamic way of life."
Three nations that rule 100 percent by Shariah law - Iran, Saudi Arabia and Sudan - hold some of the most horrific human rights records in the world, Holton said.
"This strongly suggests that Americans should strenuously resist anything associated with Shariah."
Tenets of Shariah
In his essay, "Islamic Finance or Financing Islamism," Alex Alexiev outlined the following tenets of Shariah taken from "The Reliance of the Traveler: The Classic Manual of Sacred Law":
- A woman is eligible for only half of the inheritance of a man
- A virgin may be married against her will by her father or grandfather
- A woman may not leave the house without her husband's permission
- A Muslim man may marry four women, including Christians and Jews; a Muslim woman can only marry a Muslim
- Beating an insubordinate wife is permissible
- Female sexual mutilation is obligatory
- Adultery [or the perception of adultery] is punished by death by stoning
- Offensive, military jihad against non-Muslims is a religious obligation
- Apostasy from Islam is punishable by death without trial
- Lying to infidels in time of jihad is permissible
Alexiev writes that many Islamic financial institutions claim Shariah-Compliant Finance "derives its Islamic character from the strict observance of the ostensible Quranic prohibition of lending at interest, the imperative of almsgiving (zakat), avoidance of excessive uncertainty (gharar) and certain practices and products considered unlawful (haram) to Muslims …" However, he said, "[E]ven a casual examination of the reality of Islamic finance today reveals it to be a bogus concept practiced by deceptive ploys and disingenuous means by practitioners that are or should be aware of that, but remain predictably silent."
Shariah finance institutions that have funded militant Islamism for more than 30 years. Alexiev cites Islamic Development Bank's hundreds of millions of dollars in contributions to Hamas in support of suicide bombing. Bank Al-Taqwa and other banks and charities run by Saudi billionaires have funded al-Qaida activities.
Additionally, Shariah law mandates that Muslims donate 2.5 percent of their annual incomes to charities - including jihadists. When 400 banks regularly contribute to such charities, potential financial sums can be virtually limitless.
If Western banks endorse Shariah, they will "end up becoming what Lenin called useful idiots or worse to the Islamists," Alexiev writes. "And it is a very thin line between that and outright complicity in the Islamist agenda."