Friday, June 10, 2011
By Robert Barba
Islamic finance is growing, but politics, and perhaps prejudice, might be hamstringing this business in the United States.
In the past few years bills have been introduced in at least 20 states to forbid courts from invoking foreign laws in rulings. Proponents have touted the bills as a way to prevent Sharia, a code derived from Islamic law, from becoming the law of the land — a risk that many attorneys say is nonexistent. Arizona, Louisiana and Tennessee have passed "Sharia ban" laws, which critics call a way of scoring political points by exploiting anti-Muslim sentiment.
It is unclear whether those laws would directly affect the growth of Islamic finance, which follows the tenets of Sharia law, such as a ban on paying interest. But at the very least, the political climate for Muslims is certainly not fostering a welcoming environment for what experts call an emerging market.
"The U.S. is behind. There is a strong and rapidly growing Muslim population," said Steven Watts, a partner with KPMG's financial services consulting practice in Toronto. "The holdup seems to be largely political, but it is to the detriment of the U.S."...
The United States began to lag in Islamic finance after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, she said.
"Europe and other parts of the world decided to increase funding to study Islamic finance. Generally, the governments wanted to actively watch it and said they were going to be more involved and interested," Hunt-Ahmed said. "In the U.S., funding got cut and the sector became marginalized."...
Watts said there are more opportunities, namely "ethical" investments that avoid putting money in gambling or alcohol and could appeal to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
However, Sharia-compliant mortgages (which are permissible under Islamic law because they are structured as lease-back or co-ownership arrangements) are a great entrance to the Islamic finance world, he said...
"Passing laws to ban Sharia when we have American soldiers in two Muslim countries and bases all across Europe where there are large minority Muslim populations is an ill-considered idea," Ranzini said. "The people that are hyped up about this issue are just very uninformed."...
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- Hussam Ayloush
- Hussam has been a lifelong human rights activist who is passionate about promoting democratic societies, in the US and worldwide, in which all people, including immigrants, workers, minorities, and the poor enjoy freedom, justice, economic justice, respect, and equality. Mr. Ayloush frequently lectures on Islam, media relations, civil rights, hate crimes and international affairs. He has consistently appeared in local, national, and international media. Full biography at: http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2006/08/biography-of-hussam-ayloush.html