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Reader comment on item: Islamic Economics: What Does It Mean?
in response to reader comment: Major foreign banks also moving toward Islamic Banking

Submitted by Abu Nuwas (United States), Sep 29, 2007 at 18:40

Dear Mr Ansari –

Your comments would indicate that you have completely missed the arguments Dr. Kuran made in his book "Islam and Mammon", or, more likely, that you haven't read the book.

1. One of his main points is that there is no such thing as Islamic Banking. It is pure fantasy.

A financial institution may call itself Islamic this or that and may have the "bismallah" printed atop its correspondence documents, but in the back offices, it adheres to the same banking practices and follows the same banking procedures as JP Morgan Chase does in NY City or Bank Leumi Le-Israel does in Tel Aviv.

We see similar fantasy practices in the field of education.

Acquiring an old building, sprucing it up and placing a large sign at the entrance proclaiming it to be a "College of Information Technology" and then hiring "faculty" from the Indian Subcontinent at slave wages, does not a college make. What it makes is a joke.

Yet this is common practice in many Muslim countries, particularly in the Persian Gulf region.

2. Another main point made by Dr. Kuran is that such practices tend to infantilize Muslim populations into thinking there really is an Islamic "way" of doing things and that this contributes directly to the idea that the Islamist "Caliphate" is really all the world needs to alleviate it from its problems. (This, in my opinion, is an even bigger joke and the biggest fantasy of all).

It is true, as you point out, that many Western banks have opened Islamic branches or sections, but as you suggest, this has been done more to "appease" Muslim customers than to signify a fundamental change in financial dealings and practices.

After all, if a Muslim customer "refuses" to accept interest payment on his deposits, I'm sure the bank will be most happy to comply with his wishes. (If you don't want me to pay you for money I'm borrowing from you, please call me anything you like).

(It's interesting to note that at the Standard Chartered Bank-Malaysia, which you so kindly provided us with, in the very first paragraph, the term "Sharia" is misspelled. They have instead "Syariah". I suppose this might be how it's spelled in Malay, but since the paragraph is in English, they should have stuck to the usual English spelling. This is just a minute example of the inconsistency and incoherence of Islamic banking that Dr. Kuran often alludes to in his book.)

In your very first paragraph you suggest that "Western" banking and "Islamic" banking is a new front where the West is waging war against Islam and Muslims.

But there is no war between the West and Islam in banking or anything else. If there was a war, that war has been lost long ago by Islam -line, hook and reel.- There simply is no question about it. Just look around you.

An excellent book, along the same lines as Dr. Kuran's book, - but unfortunately and unjustly neglected – is "Civilization and its Enemies" by Lee Harris. In it, he pretty much calls the entire modern Islamic project a "fantasy ideology", about as far away from reality as you can get.

I totally agree with him.

He has a new book just out "The Suicide of Reason: Islam's Threat to the West". I can hardly wait to read it.

-- Abu Nuwas --


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