The Islamic Post Blog

U.S. Economists Study Islamic Finance in Search of Stability by Khalida
January 2, 2009, 8:00 am
Filed under: Business/Economy, January Volume I- 2009, World | Tags:

Positive Economic Benefit May Outweigh Opinions of Opponents

By Raheemah Atif

Islamic Post Staff Writer

Western financial analysts are leaving no stone unturned in the quest for a cure for their potentially terminal banking/investment leviathan, including close examination of the Islamic system of finance. ArabNews reported that representatives of the U.S. Treasury Department, along with a goodwill ambassador, attended a press conference late last year, where they expressed keen interest of the United States to learn how Muslims operate banking and financial commerce within the confines of Sharia, the Islamic legal codes. American economists are admitting that there are salient features of Islamic finance structures that are indeed worthy of inclusion within a new cache of concepts with which to build a less vulnerable financial system for western capitalists, and their international financial associates.
Robert M. Kimmitt, U.S. Deputy Treasury Department Secretary and U.S. Ambassador Ford Fraker met in an official capacity with finance officers, various investors and bankers, in preparation for the G-20 summit, which includes member nations Indonesia, Malaysia, and Turkey. Kimmitt noted at that time,  “Islamic banking…is a subject that is often dwelt in the public and private sectors.”
American stock-trading firms, such as Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade, are offering Shariah-compliant investments in U.S ventures like Western Digital, Southwest Electric, and Apple Computer; so are investment companies like Azzad Ethical Midcap Fund, and Amana Mutual Funds Trust.  And Visa International, the largest payment solutions company in the world, is offering Muslim customers of Al Hilal Islamic Bank an array of Shariah-compliant credit and debit products in a new partnership with Al-Hilal.
Not all Americans, however, understand the benefit that Islamic financial strategies could bring to western finance – as voiced on, by critic Frank Gaffney, who mistakenly equates gleaning some viable economic ideas with the influence of Islam in the American way of life.
Nevertheless, Fox News pointed out that, whatever the case may be, the government of the United States is interested in the Islamic commercial and financial structure.
An “Islamic Finance: 101” course was held in Washington, D.C., in early November to enlighten government officials regarding the rudiments of Islam’s financial system. The no-interest finance method, with its additional moral investment parameters, boasts worldwide participants and products –as witnessed by Nicholas Kaiser of the Amana Mutual Funds Trust of Washington state. Mr. Kaiser’s financial products reportedly meet Shariah requirements.  “Our shareholders are American,” claims Kaiser. We don’t take money from non-Americans because of money-laundering laws.  We check and screen and verify every shareholder,” he remarked. Mr. Kaiser, who disagrees with Mr. Gaffney’s assertion of a threat to the American way of life, continued: “We simply take people’s money, invest it and give it back to them when they want it. We don’t try and convert the country. We don’t have any religious position. We aren’t evangelical.  We aren’t zealots. We’re money managers.” “I happen to be Episcopalian,” he added.
Finance experts estimate the Islamic banking industry is pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into the world economy – a small percentage of the total global commerce, but possessing great potential with growth of more than 30% in 2007.


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