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Tuesday, 6 November 2007

The Joy of Sharia, Coming to a Bank Near You

Now the industry is broadening its reach, from oil-rich Middle Eastern royalty to the middle class, raising the prospect that the impact of Islamic finance could be felt well outside the Muslim faith. More than 60 percent of the money in the investment firm Saturna Capital’s shariah-compliant mutual funds comes from non-Muslims, attracted by the funds’ industry-leading returns. Last year a Texas-based oil and gas company raised $165.67 million by issuing sukuk, many of which were snatched up by American hedge funds. And regional banks in parts of the United States with large Muslim populations have started offering a growing range of innovative financial products - Islamic home and business financing instruments, Islamic savings accounts - that they believe could attract non-Muslim investors as well.
“Islamic finance is just finance - it’s conservative, people-oriented finance,” says Shaykh Yusuf Talal DeLorenzo, a Virginia-based shariah scholar who consults for many of the banks and firms that have set up Islamic financial instruments. At a time of volatile markets, he says, “I think a lot of people are going to start taking a look at what we’re doing.”
In the United States, the growth of Islamic finance fits into a larger trend of so-called “ethical investing,” where funds and financial instruments are tailored to accord with ethical principles, whether it’s the tenets of the Catholic church or those of the environmental movement. Shariah-compliant mutual funds and asset management companies don’t invest in companies that make money from anything Islam considers haram, or forbidden: alcohol, tobacco, gambling, pornography, pork, or interest. - (Boston Globe)

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