Sharia banking: Not unsecular, but deceitful to Muslims?

I first heard of the introduction of sharia loan programs at North American banks this past summer. It didn’t bother me, and why should it have? It’s not like having sharia banking options is going to affect the options of others. It’s not like we are all going to have to engage in sharia banking. Some Muslims want the sharia option, all banks want to make money, and everyone else gets to keep on banking as usual. Sounds like an all-around positive situation in which there are no losers. Tarek Fatah, a Toronto-based secular Muslim activist against Islamic desecularization—and all desecularization—sees things a bit differently than I had. In a recent web-exclusive Globe and Mail article, Fatah argued that sharia banking rests on an indefensible framework of deceit by Islamic leaders (in collaboration with banks) against Islamic citizens.

Fatah begins with the following narrative:

It seems only yesterday that Premier Dalton McGuinty declared: “There will be no sharia law in Ontario.” Many of us, who witnessed the medieval nature of manmade sharia laws in our countries of birth, heaved a sigh of relief back in September of 2005. We thought this was the end of the attempt by Islamists to sneak sharia into a Western jurisdiction. We were wrong.

The basis for sharia banking is the belief that the Koran outlaws interest-based loans. Fatah argues that the Koran makes no such proscription. Rather, the proscription is specifically against usury (i.e., lending capital at exorbitantly or illegally-high interest rates). Fatah asserts that Islamists (i.e., those trying to propagate Islamic fundamentalism) have been misleading Muslim citizens into falsely believing that accepting standard bank loans is un-Islamic and sinful. The deceit goes further, alleges Fatah, in that in the end, standard and sharia banking really only differ in name, not in substance. The purposes of this deception, according to Fatah, are to line the pockets of Islamic religious officials (e.g., those who serve as consultants to banks, or who endorse the bank’s sharia program) and to nudge sharia into Western nations through the back door. An analogy may be the Wedge Strategy of the Christian Right in America to get Christianity back into the classroom (i.e., push for Intelligent Design, which makes no specific Christian references, to be introduced into science classes first; then over time gradually introduce more specifically Christian content, or try to slowly push the expanding wedge in deeper and deeper).

Hat Tip:

2 Responses to “Sharia banking: Not unsecular, but deceitful to Muslims?”
  1. Stoobs says:

    1) The meaning of usury WAS, at the time that the Koran and Bible (both of which proscribe it,) loaning money at interest. The change of meaning is the result of Catholic kazuistry, pure and simple. If you’re a Christian, or presumably a Muslim, then the charging of interest on loans is a sin.

    This doesn’t mean you can’t borrow money at interest. You’re free to take out loans, use credit cards, etc. (Though you could be called a hypocrite for doing so, you aren’t technically committing usury – someone else is.) What it means is that you can’t put any money in your own bank account, invest in the stock market, or otherwise seek to turn money into more money. Actually, if you take the word of Jesus seriously, every penny you don’t spend on your own upkeep and survival should be given to the poor. I can’t be completely sure about Muslims, but I doubt they’re that different.

  2. Stoobs says:

    Hmmmm… I appear to have changed what I was typing halfway through the first sentence there. Should read “…at the time that the Koran and Bible (both of which proscribe it) were written…”

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