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Banking on Allah
by Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens
Islamic banking is becoming increasingly accepted as a viable and fair alternative to the current "Western capitalist" banking system. European governments, including the UK's, are embracing Islamic banking. Gordon Brown recently declared that it was his desire to make Britain the Islamic finance capital of Europe. A number of leading UK banks now offer sharia-compliant financial services and the Treasury is considering the implementation of the sukok, or sharia-compliant, bond. Such moves fail to recognise Islamic banking for what it is — a modern Islamist construct, designed as another wedge between Western Muslims and their societies.
Since the recession, Islamic banking's supporters have been seizing the opportunity to present it as not only a more moral option, but as an economically safer one. But there are three questions that need answering: How is Islamic banking different? Who are its biggest cheerleaders? Why are they pushing for it?
Among the many justifications for his declaration of war against America and its allies, Osama bin Laden cited the un-Islamic and evil nature of the Western financial system. In a November 2002 "Letter to America", he wrote:
"You are a nation that permits usury, which has been forbidden by all the religions. You build your economy and investments on usury. As a result, in all their different forms and guises, the Jews have taken control of your economy..."
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