What’s wrong with ‘What’s wrong with Islamic finance’?

Christian Concern have published a neat little booklet called ‘What’s wrong with Islamic finance’ (download HERE), which summarises the origins, aims and purported problems arising from Islamic finance in the UK. It covers the quranic ban on interest; links to extremism; the charging of zakat; money laundering; lack of transparency, and the sharia adjudication of financial disputes. It’s a neat little booklet, it really is. But there’s something wrong with it.

Yes, you’ve got it. It’s missing a question mark.

Unless, of course, ‘What’s wrong’ is a statement of what is rather than a grammatical interrogative. It’s hard to tell. Maybe it doesn’t matter. And maybe Islamic finance doesn’t matter, either. It’s hard to tell.

It’s hard to tell because Islamic finance is simply sharia-compliant money, and if some Muslims want that, it’s hard to see what’s wrong with it. A bit like Christian finance and Jewish finance and Jedi finance. As long as it conforms to the market laws of the land, it’s hard to see what’s wrong with it.

Apart from the missing question mark, that is.

You may be persuaded that the advent of sharia-compliant money for those who want it represents some sort of Islamic/ist takeover, or at least the sinister development of a rival financial system, but, let’s face it, a market worth some $2,000,000,000,000 isn’t to be sniffed at. And it’s scheduled to grow to $3 trillion by the end of 2018. That’s quite a lot of money (isn’t it?), and all perfectly ripe for picking in the vineyard of Mohammed.

So what’s the fuss?

Well, the authors of this booklet say the ban on the charging of interest is “a modern fundamentalist interpretation” of the Qur’an. By ‘fundamentalist’ here they mean the word usually (and better) translated ‘usury’ has been increasingly rendered ‘interest’.

Does it matter? Does it really matter if a sharia-compliant mortgage is marketed as being ‘interest-free’ but actually charges a bank’s ‘variable rental rate’ which happens to be suspiciously similar (ie the same) as the interest rate charged to the kuffar? Does it matter if they say they don’t charge interest but then charge something that looks, smells and feels like.. um.. interest? Isn’t it simply a marketing ploy – perfectly legal – and actually not much different from advertising a fixed interest rate of 2% which turns out to be 2.89% APR which reverts to a variable rate in 12 months? Isn’t it all just an ancient ruse? What’s the problem with wrapping up Mammon in religious garb?

Ah, Mammon.

Isn’t that what’s wrong with ‘What’s wrong with Islamic finance’?

Apart from the missing question mark, that is.

The booklet takes no account at all of the fact that sharia-compliant finance is simply a sect of Mammon worship. Or is it a cult? Maybe it doesn’t matter. Amongst all the greedy princes of Hell, it’s hard to tell one from another. Money.. wealth.. profit.. possessions.. interest.. usury..

When you put Islamic finance into the moral context of avarice and the global worship of money, is it really any different from Christian/Jewish/Jedi ‘mainstream’ finance? Aren’t they all economic systems for asserting notions of cultural identity and global hegemony? Isn’t it just a slight clash of competing civilisations?

We don’t know where zakat goes? Well, where does VAT end up? Islamic finance is vulnerable to money laundering? Well, so was the Vatican Bank. Islamic finance subsidises jihad? Well, how many bloody wars and crimes against humanity have been perpetrated with Christian finance?

Islamic finance may be concerned with civilisational resistance, but why should it not be able to compete for market share in a free-trade world without tariffs, quotas or other restrictions? If the tedious red tape of sharia-compliance becomes a burdensome bureaucracy, it will surely go the way of all inefficient institutions and over-regulated systems, won’t it? “Islamic finance is not supported by most Muslims”, we learn in section 10. And therein lies the seed of its pre-ordained demise.

But there’s something else..

Islamic finance is “illiberal, undemocratic and discriminatory”, it says in section 5.

It may be so. In fact, it is almost certainly so. But there’s far more to fear from the illiberal, undemocratic and discriminatory financial ‘services’ of Goldman Sachs, Deloitte and George Soros than there is from a financial system blessed by Allah. Perhaps Christian Concern might produce a booklet about the anti-Christian Mammon-worshipping activities of those shady agents whose $billions are being deployed for subversive ‘progressive’ and ‘liberal’ political causes.

  • ZX10

    Hmm interesting well they can have their segregated banking just as long as they are 100% open and compliant with English law and not as has been the case way too often treated as a protected group with no independent oversight as that would be ‘wascist ‘

  • Colin

    I think the term “Shariah compliant finance” is much better than the term “Islamic finance”. Its not that the system is for the benefit of Islam with an ownership of the money that is somehow for Islam. Its a system that is compliant with the codes of conduct as set out in Shariah.

  • Mark

    The concept of “zakat” seems like a conman’s dream. You’re required by Allah to give to charity and will be punished by him if you don’t, so please give to my charity! It couldn’t be easier.
    Of course it doesn’t happen though.
    And “interest free” is nonsense. The Sharia banks wouldn’t survive without a payback from customers. It’s interest by any other name. I suppose also, they get away with not having to pay anything to savers – pretty much the road the BoE has led us all down.

    • James Bolivar DiGriz

      I know someone who worked on a software system for a bank in the ME. On all of the reports and all of the screens ‘Interest’ was changed to, IIRC, ‘Islamic dues’. Absolutely no changes were made to the way that interest was calculated.

  • Maalaistollo

    Over 25 years ago I acted for a man of Pakistani origin who was being pursued by Muslim Commercial Bank, who wanted repayment of his debt to them, with interest. I said to him ‘I thought Muslims weren’t allowed to charge interest.’ He looked at me with pity and said ‘But this is business!’

  • David

    It strikes me that this is a convoluted method of charging for loaning money by other means; it presents as a deliberately contrived way of avoiding using the convent al mechanism of interest, as employed by everyone else. In this way it creates difference, perhaps for the sake of creating difference ? I suspect that this is so.

  • Anton

    No question mark is missing, Your Grace. There is plenty wrong with secular banking too but that is not the subject of Christian Concern’s booklet. CC is a fine organisation.

    Here’s how it works. In our system, suppose someone wishes to buy a 150,000-pound house taking a 15-year mortgage at an interest rate of 5%. Over the 180 months of that time the monthly payment is easily calculated as 1186.19 pounds, leading to a total payment of 1186.19 * 180 = 213,514.28 pounds. That means 213,514.28 – 150,000 = 63,514,28 pounds is paid in interest on top of the 150,000-pound offering price. A Muslim (call him Ahmed) therefore goes to a sharia-compliant lender, who pays 150,000 pounds for the house on Ahmed’s behalf and then requires monthly payments of 1186.19 pounds from Ahmed. The sum equivalent to the interest therefore remains in the Muslim community. The community is perfectly entitled to do this; what I don’t want is any hidden subsidy of Muslim financing by others when it comes to more complex financial products.

  • Andrew Holt

    Islamic finance practiced in the UK is just another incremental step in the Islamisation of our society, alongside Sharia courts and an increasing fear of criticising any aspect of Islam for fear of being falsely labelled “racist.” One might almost think the ‘Enlightenment’ had never happened.

    • Royinsouthwest

      If a bank makes a loan to a company and when that company repays the loan it also gives the bank a small share of its profits instead of interest what is wrong with that? Of course if the bank knows exactly what it will get back, or at least knows how its returns will depend on how long it takes the company to repay the loan, that is probably just a way of disguising the payment of interest, as David pointed out below. In such a case the arrangement may be just a hypocritical method of getting around Sharia law, but unless I am missing something there would seem to be no reason at all for it to be illegal according to western law codes.

  • CliveM

    I can’t get heated about this. If they want to play word games fine. Provided it is subject to the same oversight as mainstream banking and is open to non-Muslims as well.

    If it is, why should we care?

    • Anton

      To grumble about this post of His Grace’s you could ask, What’s wrong with “What’s wrong with ‘What’s wrong with Islamic finance’ “?

      • CliveM

        Wouldn’t dare. HG can get grumpy!

  • Dreadnaught

    Whats wrong with Islamic finance – its here – thats what’s wrong. 30 years ago yer average Muslims were happy to take out regular mortgages to buy their council houses and save with interest in British banks. Islam didn’t collapse.
    Saudi and Qatari etc petro dollars can now be swilled through a banking system in Europe without too much troublesome scrutiny, because to do so would clearly be racist; and we can’t be having with that.

    • Anton

      In fairness they did get those petrodollars from the West in the first place by selling us oil.

      • Dreadnaught

        Russia and China also use ME Oil.

        • Anton

          Russia is an oil exporter. It was the fall in the price of oil in the 1980s that did for the Russian economy and catalysed the collapse of its empire.

          • Dreadnaught

            You will also realise we (UK) export North Sea Oil.

          • Anton

            At this point it is necessary to look at a graph of how much oil vs year.

          • Dreadnaught

            If I didn’t have a life, maybe I would.

          • Anton

            Great excuse!

  • Andrew Holt

    It may well be legal. My point is that it is just another incremental step towards the acceptance of an alternative society, included in which are financial, social, political and spiritual aspects inimical to a relatively free and democratic post enlightenment society such as ours.

    • Anton

      But our financial system is far from free and democratic.

  • jsampson45

    In criticising the world’s financial systems one has to start somewhere.

    • Anton

      With fiat currency.

  • Dominic Stockford

    In Islamic countries much of the structure of society is retained by the annual/regular giving of gifts from the rich to the poor – who are of course unable to borrow money should for instance their house fall down – it therefore perpetuates the power of the wealthy, and makes the poor dependent on them. It is also being used as a Trojan Horse into the UK – thus, “You have sharia finance so why not sharia x or y or z” – which the poor little snowflakes running this country won’t be able to cope with.

  • Paul

    Your Grace,

    Imagine I wrote a post called ‘What’s wrong with American cheese’ (with or without a question mark). Imagine that I said it tasted of plastic, lacks the strength of a vintage cheddar and the subtlety of a Wensleydale.

    Could I expect you to criticise my post for not covering problems common to cheese as a whole? (e.g. that vegans don’t like it, it causes problems for people with lactose intolerances, it doesn’t last long in hot weather and it goes rubbery if you microwave it).

    It just seems a bit bizarre that you’d expect a booklet about a particular issue to cover much wider issues. Or that you’d major on this and a matter of punctuation rather than focusing on the issues at stake.


  • Inspector General

    “Hello, is that the Islamic bank?”

    “Yes. What do you want?”

    “It’s about my account”

    “Yes, Inspector. You have FID account here”

    “That’s the one. By the way, what does FID stand for?”

    “’Filthy Infidel Dog’, effendi. Do you wish to upgrade to ‘Unclean Son of a Camel’ one?

    “Rather! You chaps certainly know how to respect the unbelieving customer, what!”

    • Bernard from Bucks

      “How do I stand for a loan?”
      “You don’t. You face east and then get down on your knees.”

      • Inspector General

        Indeed. The Inspector is also with the Bank of FGM (motto: “It’s not just interest rates we cut”). A bank that gives you more…

        • Royinsouthwest

          Have they given you an interest free credit card Inspector, and would the transaction go through if you used it to build up your supply of whisky before Christmas?

          • Inspector General

            Credit cards are the Devil;s work, Roy.

  • gerv

    I must confess I was unimpressed by this booklet. In general, why should Muslims not arrange their financial affairs as they see fit, just as anyone else should be able to? A lot of the arguments were merely assertion, and many of the others were not specific to Islamic finance per se.

    • Anton

      It isn’t much more than a list of online references, but those make revealing reading.

  • The Explorer

    Islamic polygamy, and its implications for welfare, may have more impact on the fabric of British society in the long run than Islamic banking.

  • Inspector General

    Islamic banks are a part of why multiculturalism was always going to be a dead duck in England. Once muslims get their hands on an inner city property, it remains in the Islamic community for ever and ever. It never goes back onto the free market again. It will be disposed of within the community. Whomever is allocated it gets an Islamic mortgage, and thus the local muslim community is not only self-sustaining, but extending, as houses next to the community are put up for sale by the indigenous, those too are secured for a muslim family. There is also the added bonus that as the community expands, what we’ll call ‘white housing’ actually loses value as the boundary gets nearer. Wonderful stuff!

    Add in their own shops, and other services, and with schools within, you could live for days, weeks even, and never or rarely see anyone but your own kind. And the future? It is only a matter of time before the community presses the government of the day to allow them to police said community. Sharia law, naturally. That’s going to be unhappy! And Sharia courts therein, of course.

    For their part, these fellows may just keep out of our hair then. Or will they…

    • They wont keep out of our hair Inspector who are you trying to kid? They want rid of us you know. Any country they go they take over, it’s in the Koran.

  • chefofsinners

    This article amounts to: “Don’t say there are problems with Islamic finance because there are other problems in other places”
    Unworthy of this blog’s usual intellectual rigour. And smells like a sop to Islam. Not forgetting that the sop was what Jesus gave to Judas.

  • Sharia anything is bad for this country, it’s part of a shadow culture that is getting stronger by the day and our spineless, clueless government don’t seem to be at all concerned.

    • Merchantman

      Yes of course; Sharia is an offence against the christian way and yet it is seemingly of little or no interest to our so called leaders. Unless there is a space for discussion of the issues it will push its way into every area by default. What other ‘system’ is allowed access with the veiled threat of extreme violence for non compliance at its back?

      • Those in government need to clamp down on any threats of violence, jail those who threaten us with extreme violence. One law for all it’s as simple as that.

        • Pubcrawler

          Don’t pin your hopes on Bedfordshire plod being much use there:

          • They are pathetic, really pathetic.

          • Inspector General

            Interesting link there, Pub. The Inspector has long been aware of the intensity of Islamic fervour whatever in Luton, but has never been given an explanation for why this is so. From a simple thought, it’s almost as if an entire Pakistani hill tribe were flown over to Luton airport by a fleet of planes, whereupon they merely walked up the road and made their home in Luton town. Surely it cannot be as uncomplicated as that!

  • Shadrach Fire

    Quite right Cranmer, there is so much more to expose in this world that is labelled secular. The Judiciary is one that imposes crippling costs on a young woman who just tried to do what the DPP failed to do, prosecuting gender selective abortions, then awarded damages to those who should have been prosecuted. Social services who won’t let christians adopt because they say a child is better off with a mother and a father. Lastly on my list, greedy bankers who manipulate the markets and steal from you and me and then pay themselves millions because of how clever they are.

  • Jon Sorensen

    As the article states that it has same issues as the Vatican Bank. Shouldn’t all Christians support Muslims’ religious freedom to have their banking system just like Christians support the religious freedom not to bake a cake to gays. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    • Anton

      Provided that it conforms to Western banking regulations then Yes, of course.

      When Muslims seek to change Western banking regulations, what will secularists do?

      • Jon Sorensen

        The Vatican Bank seems to have problems with regulations, so it is out.
        Muslims banks are ok if they meet the regulations. No problem with that.

        • Anton

          Grand. Read Gerald Posner for what’s wrong with the Vatican Bank. (Plenty!)

  • Andrew Holt

    We could argue about the extent to which our economic system is fair, free and democratic. My point is that, whilst far from perfect, it is an aspect of our culture. Islam is inimical to democratic principles. If you’re an adherent try leaving it; if a critic try criticising its holy book or the prophet. In a post enlightenment society no idea, philosophy or religion should be above rational, informed, critical examination. No exceptions! Islam claims the right to close down debate and to subtly introduce general sharia compliance. This we must resist. Politely but firmly.

  • Martin

    Hmm, I don’t think you meant “sharia-complaint money”.

    As for no question mark, a statement does not require one.

  • PessimisticPurple

    What’s wrong with it? Just that it presents itself as something it’s not. Muslim’s charge interest on the money they lend, they just don’t call it interest. The immediate problem is that their presentation is misleading, but the more general problem is that it feeds into the Islamic supposition of superiority over the dirty kafirs. It needs to be challenged at every turn.

  • I have observed the consequences of Islamic finance – without really understanding how it works. These are not entirely benign.

    First, a look at the relationship between Muslims and money in the West in the past. Despite the high rates of unemployment and the low levels of education among Muslims in Europe, they have managed to set up large mosques and Islamic centres everywhere. These are obviously financed by the Gulf countries to propagate a creed that has produced a generation of Muslims more loyal to the Ummah than to the countries where they live. The Gulf nations also own large swathes of the best properties in London and elsewhere. They have done very little to educate Muslims outside their own countries or to help refugees, but have deftly used Western money to set up local Muslim schools, support refugees, fight their wars, and promote their various causes. Western governments have also wasted millions on failed projects to ‘develop’ Muslim communities, the Paris ‘banlieues’ being a typical example, in the vain hope that they will live peacefully assimilate.

    Now, coming to potential consequences of Islamic finance. When a desirable piece of property comes on the market, a Muslim buyer will either have the funds to put in the best offer or use their ‘connections’ (remember the former Muslim Mayor of Tower Hamlets) to buy it at a low price. Counterfeit notes will enter circulation – this is apparently a big business in some Muslim countries – and paper money rendered worthless. More properties and businesses will move into Muslim hands within a very short time, and others squeezed out. Ordinary people will become increasingly dependant on loans from Muslim sources to buy houses or set up businesses. As Muslims grow in influence, they will suck more money from governments, and force them to crack down on any opposition to their programmes.

    We all know that whoever controls the money, controls the laws, and allowing Sharia finance will prove a disaster.

  • len

    Seems to me that Islamic finance says one thing but does another which IMO puts it into the political class.

  • John Waller

    The question mark is conditional but the lamentable dearth of capital letters is a crime against humanity.

    • Anton

      Surely a Crime against Humanity?

      • Erik Dahlberg

        wEll plAyed Anton

        • Anton

          That’s capital punishment!

          • Pubcrawler

            The offence is minuscule.