MARY FITZGERALDOnce a church, now a mosque. This is the future of Ireland, and Britain.


THERE IS an “urgent need” for sharia-compliant financial services to be made available in Ireland so that Muslims living here do not contravene religious teachings, representatives from Irish financial institutions were told at a seminar on Islamic banking yesterday.

The seminar was held at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland (ICCI), which is based at Ireland’s largest Sunni mosque in Clonskeagh, Dublin.

“We organised this conference because there is an urgent need for the Muslim community here to have mortgages and other financial services that do not drive them to break their Islamic teachings,” said Ali Selim, a theologian and secretary to Imam Hussein Halawa of the ICCI.

During yesterday’s seminar Imam Halawa outlined the religious tenets of Islam that forbid the payment or receipt of interest, known as riba.

Representatives from the Arab Banking Corporation’s London subsidiary and the Islamic Bank of Britain gave presentations on how the market for Islamic finance has developed in the UK in recent years.

Several high street banks in Britain now offer a variety of sharia-compliant services, including mortgages.

One of the most common types is based on the Islamic principles of “diminishing musharaka” or diminishing ownership. Under this scheme, the customer and bank jointly acquire a property, with the customer’s share usually similar to the normal deposit, but the property is bought in the bank’s name only.

The customer makes monthly payments made up of rent and contributions towards the purchase price over an agreed period of time.

The amount of rent decreases as the customer’s share in the property increases. Ownership is transferred when the customer eventually buys out the bank.

Similar partnerships are available so Muslim business people in the UK can avoid interest repayments.

Mr Selim told the seminar that as Ireland’s Muslim population increased there would be more demand for such services here.

According to last year’s census there are 32,500 Muslims living in Ireland, although the real figure is believed to be higher

“Most Muslim businessmen, when starting their business, did not go to Irish banks because they do not provide facilities profitable to the bank and the customer without violating Islamic teachings,” Mr Selim said.

He outlined the dilemma faced by many Muslims here who, despite being able to afford property, live in rented accommodation because the conventional mortgage system goes against Islamic teachings.

“When we announced the possibility of facilitating Islamic mortgage in Ireland in less than two weeks we had a list of 400 potential purchasers,” he said.

“If we cross the sea we see Islamic mortgage and Islamic business loans available. Can we have them in Ireland?”

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