Backers of Shariah-compliant finance see an opportunity for expansion amid the global economic downturn, and some Western banks are welcoming this growing source of new business.
"Islamic bankers should do some missionary work in the Western world to promote the concept of Shariah banking, for which many in the West are more than ready now," Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said at the World Islamic Economic Forum last month in Jakarta.
Such statements have given rise to fears that Shariah finance is a stalking horse for hidden political or religious aims. Shariah finance is an extension of Islamic law, pushing a faith-based alternative to Western banking.
Key Islamists who advise Shariah financial houses have called for full Shariah law to be adopted in Western countries and, in some cases, have made statements supporting terrorist groups.