Islamic Banking in Britain
From the desk of The Brussels Journal <http://www.brusselsjournal.com/user/39> on Mon, 2007-02-12 14:14
An article by Helena Christofi
London is the leading Islamic banking center in the West. Islamist clerics with terrorist connections and a mission to Islamize Europe are infiltrating the United Kingdom through its banking system, and British officials are encouraging them. HSBC, Lloyds TSB, and Citigroup have opened Islamic banking units and branches throughout England. In 2005 the first stand-alone British Islamic bank, Islamic Bank of Britain, opened its doors. Middle Eastern Islamic banks have also set up shop in the UK.
Islamic banks are managed according to shari’a law, the defining principle being the prohibition of interest in all monetary transactions as commanded in the Qur’an. The other defining feature of Islamic banks is their operation of shari’a advisory boards comprised of Islamic scholars and clerics whose job it is to ensure that the banks’ activities comply with shari’a law. Proponents of the Islamic economic model (of which Islamic banking is a central pillar) argue that the Islamic system is superior to capitalism because it is structured around a strict code of ethics prohibiting exploitative practices, such as the charging of interest, with the aim of constructing a moral society. Capitalism’s single-minded focus on money, they argue, produces the social ills we see in the West whose manifestation would become impossible under the Islamic model.
Sheik Yousef Al-Qaradawi, a leading Sunni cleric, spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, and instigator and financier of terrorism in Europe and the Middle East, heads the fundamentalist European Council for Fatwa and Research, several of whose most prominent members sit on every major British Islamic bank’s shari’a board. Both Al-Qaradawi and the Council have expressed their hope that “Islam will return to Europe as a conqueror” by way of “preaching and ideology” or “by the sword.”
British Islamic banks have naturally positioned themselves as the moral alternative to conventional banking for Muslims (research done by Lloyds TSB found that over seventy five percent of British Muslims want shari’a-compliant banking products). But the banks are also targeting non-Muslims with the message that their services are ethically superior to those of the West, pushing the idea that interest – and capitalism – is unethical and should be replaced in Europe by the Islamic financial model. In such a situation the West’s conversion to Islam would occur in tandem. The message is catching on; Mufti Abdul Barkatullah, shari’a adviser to Lloyds TSB <http://www.guardian.co.uk/guardian_jobs_and_money/story/0,,1450300,00.html> and imam at the North Finchley mosque, reports that twenty percent of the inquiries into Islamic products at one of Lloyds’ Islamic branches come from non-Muslims.
Barkatullah told The Guardian <http://www.guardian.co.uk/guardian_jobs_and_money/story/0,,1450154,00.html> :
Interest is bad because it diverts resources from the poor to the rich and so concentrates wealth […] Instead of a few being superrich through interest, Islamic finance and its emphasis on the exchange of useful goods and services rather than exchanging interest on money, leads to a fairer society.
Barkatullah proceeded to advocate a ban on interest in the UK altogether, stating a ban could lead to “self-sufficiency” and “fairness in society.” The Guardian corroborates the position held by Islamic banking’s supporters, naively echoing their argument that interest discourages industry.
Wasn’t England the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution and creator of the common law, the most successful and equitable legal system in history?
But Barkatullah and The Guardian didn’t just fail to study up on basic British history; they also failed to reveal Islamic banking’s dirty little secret: Islamic banks charge interest just like their conventional counterparts.
Any bank, be it Islamic or conventional, risks running losses if it does not charge some form of interest; Islamic banks circumvent this danger by extending a type of Islamic “credit” that shifts risk to the borrower in a manner similar to interest.
An Islamic bank granting murabaha credit to a customer for an automobile, for example, would purchase the automobile for the customer for £10,000 and the customer would owe the bank £12,000 in a year’s time. Similarly, under the “diminishing musharaka” credit, the Islamic version of a mortgage, the bank and the customer purchase the property together. The customer must make monthly payments to the bank and pay a monthly rental fee, both based on the portion of the purchase price the bank still owns. Ironically, the interest this amounts to ranges between one and two percent higher than the interest on a conventional mortgage (4.75-5% APR conventional rate versus 6.16-6.45% APR Islamic rate).
Although the resale price of the vehicle and the rent paid on the house are akin to simple interest charges, the banks’ shari’a boards legitimate the charges by renaming them “commissions” or “profits.” Islamic banks could not remain profitable – or ideologically influential – if they complied with the Qur’anic injunction again interest.
The justification for replacing capitalism with the Islamic model is based on an intentional corruption of shari’a law, but the banks’ clerics don’t seem to mind undermining their theological philosophy, since the ethical image their misrepresentation has created for Islamic banking has managed to spread Islamic ideology to non-Muslims in Britain. According to Al-Qaradawi, Islam’s ideological infiltration into the West will be the vehicle through which it will establish an Islamic government over the entire globe:
Perhaps the next conquest [of Europe], Allah willing, will be by means of preaching and ideology. The conquest need not necessarily be by the sword […] Europe will see that it suffers from materialistic culture, and will seek an alternative […] It will find no lifesaver but the message of Islam […] Allah willing, Islam will return to Europe and the Europeans will convert to Islam. Then they themselves will be able to be the ones to disseminate Islam in the world.
Replacing western institutions with a global Islamic order is, in fact, the goal of Al-Qaradawi’s Muslim Brotherhood. According to its founder, Hassan Al-Bana, the Brotherhood seeks to “[reclaim] Islam’s manifest destiny; an empire, founded in the seventh century, that stretched from Spain to Indonesia,” and its 1982 “secret plan” exhorted its members “to channel thought, education and action in order to establish an Islamic power on the earth.” The Muslim Brotherhood is a central link between Islamic banking and Islamic fundamentalism; the first Islamic bankers were members of the Muslim Brotherhood who wanted to use “the structural power of bank ownership” to advance the fundamentalist movement in the Gulf States in the 1970s. Today, its most powerful progeny, the Kuwait Finance House, covertly finances fundamentalist groups in Kuwait and abroad.
Dr. Ahmad Al-Rabi, a former Kuwaiti official, stated in a 2005 newspaper column that the “beginnings of all of the religious terrorism that we are witnessing today were in the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology.” This is not a casual exaggeration; the Brotherhood’s members founded Al-Qaeda, bombed the World Trade Center in 1993, and applauded the 2001 World Trade Center massacre as America’s just desserts.
With the Muslim Brotherhood directly involved in Islamic banking in Europe, Al-Qaradawi’s hope that Islam conquers Europe either by “ideology” or “by the sword” is becoming a palpable possibility. A look at two European Islamic banks is revealing:
Al-Qaradawi is a principal shareholder and past shari’a adviser to Bank Al-Taqwa, part of the Al-Taqwa group based in Lugano, Switzerland. The United States government has designated the Al-Taqwa group a financier of Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, and in 1995 Italy’s anti-terrorist agency DIGOS allegedly told Swiss federal prosecutors that Al-Taqwa “comprises the most important financial structure of the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic terrorist organizations.” Like the Kuwait Finance House, Bank Al-Taqwa was established with significant backing from the Muslim Brotherhood, and the network is believed to have also financed Hamas, the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and similar Islamist groups throughout the Middle East. The list of Al-Taqwa’s shareholders corroborates the assessment made by DIGOS; among the shareholders is Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan Al-Banna, Osama Bin Laden’s sisters Huta and Iman Bin Laden, members of Hamas and figures connected to Al-Qaeda, and Al Taqwa founder and director Ahmed Idriss Nasreddin, who previously worked for the Bin Laden Group.
Bank Al-Taqwa is connected to another Islamic banking entity in Europe suspected of terrorism, Al Rajhi Banking and Investment Corporation (which is headquartered in Saudi Arabia and operates an office in London). Suleiman Abdel Aziz Al Rajhi, chairman of Al Rajhi’s board of directors, is believed to have funded Al-Qaeda early on, and US officials allege he transferred over $20 million to Al-Taqwa through his network of fraudulent US-based non-profit organizations. Al Rajhi also worked for Bank Al-Taqwa.
At least three other British shari’a advisors sit on the European Council for Fatwa and Research with Al-Qaradawi and two others possess potential connections to Islamist entities, yet Chancellor Gordon Brown continues to promote the UK as a hub for Islamic banking.