If you've seen Geert Wilders's film Fitna, you may not have noticed a single headline amongst all the bombings, beheadings, and earnest expressions of Islam's eventual world domination: Halal-fund: investments for Muslims. But the investment vehicles referenced are an essential part of radical Islam's efforts to insinuate itself into Western societies in order to destroy them from within. And Wall Street, barely out of the woods from its disastrous run-in with sub-prime mortgages — and having lost one of its historic investment houses, Bear Stearns, in the process — is now chasing the very kind of "sharia finance" against which Wilders's movie warns, a business line that may eventually wind up being even more calamitous than the subprime-mortgage fiasco.
For the growing army of its acolytes, who salivate at the prospect of tens of billions of dollars in transaction fees from the burgeoning industry, sharia-compliant finance is seen as little more than a cuddly Islamic version of socially conscious investment — with ethical strictures forbidding usury and sin industries, and emphasizing charity. Indeed, a conference on the subject last Fall co-sponsored by the Wall Street Journal was titled just that: "Islamic Ethical Investment." According to this rosy interpretation, sharia finance is a windfall for capital markets — allowing Wall Street to skim some foam off the ocean of petrodollar liquidity in the Middle East, and put it to good use.
Other interpretations are possible, of course. Critics see sharia finance as a massive subversion campaign by radical Islam designed to legitimize sharia in the West, to undermine our markets, and ultimately to imperil our free-enterprise system and national security — all the while exposing banks to financial risks that make the sub-prime fiasco look like a walk in the park. For its proponents and ideological enablers — such as the well known suicide-bombing advocate, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi — sharia finance is nothing less than "Jihad with money." As al-Qaradawi explains, "God has ordered us to fight enemies with our lives and with our money." Unfortunately for Wall Street, it's hard to argue with the good sheikh on that score. Far from being a guide to ethical investment, sharia finance is indistinguishable from sharia itself.