What do radical Muslim Brotherhood cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi and the United States Treasury Department have in common? Disturbingly, both are pushing Shari'a-compliant finance (SCF) as a remedy to the global credit meltdown.
"The collapse of the capitalist system … is proof that it is in crisis and shows that Islamic economic philosophy is holding up," al-Qaradawi enthused at an October forum attended by prominent terrorists and Jew-haters. Muslims, he added, should "profit from the crisis to bring about the triumph of the [Islamic] nation."
At the same time, the Treasury Department hopes that "Islamic economic philosophy" could help right the listing financial ship without poking even more holes below the waterline. According to Arab News, Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt explained during an October 25 press conference in Saudi Arabia that "the U.S. government is currently studying the salient features of Islamic banking to ascertain how far it could be useful in fighting the ongoing world economic crisis." In addition, last week the Treasury hosted a half-day seminar entitled "Islamic Finance 101." Though billed as an opportunity for regulators to gather objective information, the event was panned by Alex Alexiev as one-sided and "little more than a government-sponsored promotion of the subversive Islamist agenda carried out under the Shari'a finance guise."
SCF is a classic wolf in sheep's clothing. The saccharine view, like the one presented in a recent Washington Post essay, emphasizes that Islamic finance prohibits making money off of money (interest) and avoids investments in "unethical" industries such as gambling, alcohol, or pork. Shari'a-compliant firms must also purify themselves through zakat, the charitable contributions that comprise one of the five pillars of Islam.
Here is the reality: SCF employs the financial equivalent of Rube Goldberg machines to circumvent the ban on interest; it also bestows upon clerics sole authority to determine which investments are Shari'a-compliant and which are not. Worse, the "charitable" donations often end up funding terrorism — some Islamic banks in the Middle East appear to have been set up precisely for this purpose. Frank Gaffney further argues that SCF serves as the "leading edge of the spear for those seeking to insinuate Shari'a into Western societies," pointing to its acceptance in Britain as the start of that nation's slippery slope of accommodating Islamists.
Handed nearly a trillion dollars to distribute as he sees fit, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson now wields unprecedented power to impose his desires upon the financial sector. And with an international economic summit looming on November 15, Gaffney fears that government steps to promote SCF indicate that the Saudis "have secured the Bush administration's acquiescence to the sinister strings attached to any bailout of the West in which they might participate."
Americans recall the frequent and embarrassing spectacles of President Bush pleading with Saudi King Abdullah to increase oil production. Are greater indignities still to come?