Islamic Banking in the West: Conviction or Need?

Published on asharq alawsat, by Lahem al Nasser, Sept. 18, 2009.

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- Following the collapse of the Lehman Brothers, which was like a precursor to the global financial crisis from which the world is suffering today, several Western countries rushed to invite Islamic financial experts to discuss principles of the Islamic banking industry and the legal prerequisites for attracting Islamic capital and Islamic financial institutions to invest in these countries.

Countries that once opposed the establishment of Islamic financial institutions on their soil were the first to enact laws to allow such institutions to operate, such as France and Australia. Even the United States, which has long opposed amending laws or creating new ones especially for Islamic banking, has announced that it is considering using Islamic banking to fight the global crisis, according to the US Secretary of the Treasury Robert Kimmitt. 

Are these statements and initiatives presented because people believe that the foundations upon which Islamic banking is based could cure the crisis, marking the very first merger between such foundations and the legal system governing the banking industry in the West as some have claimed? Or is it just to make the most of the capital of this industry to save the capitalist system? Are these nothing but commercial slogans that are meant to attract these finances? …

… In reality, these calls had no impact, as no Western state studied the foundations of the Islamic banking industry to incorporate it within the amendments to laws governing their financial industries. This proves that the aim of the welcome received by Islamic banking was [to attract] the liquidity enjoyed by this industry, not confidence in the competence of this industry in remedying the causes of the crisis. Therefore, the Islamic banking industry should make the most of the crisis by achieving its ultimate interests rather than temporary ones, such as being recognized by international organizations e.g. the Bank for International Settlements and trying to get the Western states to endorse its own laws such as tax laws, ownership laws and amending supervisory laws in line with this industry’s criteria, and not to be deceived by this celebration that may not last very long, as this depends on its ultimate incentive. (full text).

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