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Islamic Finance May Be On to Something
by Frederik Balfour
This might be a good time for investors to pick up a copy of the Koran. Stocks and other investments that adhere to sharia, or Islamic law -- though hardly unscathed -- have fared better than the broader market. That's thanks largely to rules that forbid investing in collateralized debt obligations and other toxic assets that have caused the carnage in conventional financial circles.
A big part of the appeal of Islamic finance is its simplicity. Speculation is taboo under sharia, and there's a ban on assessing interest because the Prophet Mohammed said debts must be repaid in the amount that was loaned. Money proffered must be backed by collateral, and if financial instruments are traded, they generally have to sell for face value, which deters banks from repackaging debt. "This is one way to keep both feet on the ground," says Rozali bin Mohamed Ali, head of an Islamic finance university in Kuala Lumpur.
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