Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Choose your quote; a question of emphasis

First (hat tip: halls of macadamia), check out this Globe and Mail/Report on Business piece:
The secular group Muslim Canadian Congress issued a letter Tuesday criticizing Islamic products as more expensive than mainstream financial ones.

The letter comes as Ottawa is considering its first applications to start up Canadian banks operating within the strictures of Islamic religious law. Sharia-compliant products, such as mortgages and mutual funds, have sprouted up across the country in recent years and are gaining in popularity around the world.

The MCC said the move puts undue pressure on Canadian Muslims to sign on to more costly products.

“Islamic banking is nothing more than an attempt by Islamists, with backing from Middle Eastern financial institutions and their Western partners, to scare Muslim Canadians into believing that they should pay more to the banks and demand less in return, as an act of religiosity,” said MCC president Farzana Hassan in an open letter to CMHC.

It asked the Canadian housing agency to abandon its study into the issue, which will cost about $65,000, and said a better approach would be a banking system that seeks to integrate Canadians.

“What we need is a better deal from the banks for all Canadians, rather than dividing us up into religious groups and placing obstacles in the way of better integration of all Canadians,” Ms. Hassan said.

“Religion has no place in the banking or mortgage industry.”

CMHC said it merely wants to understand the issue better, and stressed that it has no plans to start offering such products itself.
Then check out the Muslim Canadian Congress take on their own letter
The Muslim Canadian Congress (MCC) has asked the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) to abandon its $100,000 study to introduce so-called Islamic Banking in Canada, saying there should be no room in Canada for Saudi inspired Islamist political doctrines dressed up as innocuous religious requirements.

In a letter to Karen Kinsley, Chief Executive Officer of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the president of the Muslim Canadian Congress Farzana Hassan said, "Islamic Banking is nothing more than an attempt by Islamists, with backing from Middle Eastern Financial Institutions and their Western partners, to scare Muslim Canadians into believing that they should pay more to the banks and demand less in return as an act of religiosity. "

"Sharia Banking is an obscene attempt to fleece an already marginalized Muslim community while promising them the exact opposite. On the one hand Imams are warning Muslims of hellfire if they deal with the existing banking systems, and on the other the same clerics are being paid by banks to herd Muslims towards a system that is based on lies and deception.

What we need is a better deal from the banks for all Canadians, rather than dividing us up into religious groups and pacing obstacles in the way of better integration of all Canadians. Our banking system has developed in Canada over the last 200 years, and there is no need to adapt it to the failed economies and medieval systems modeled on Saudi Arabia and Iran," added Ms. Hassan.
In the letter, Ms Hassan said it was unfortunate that some Canadian Banks are succumbing to the lure of easy money that comes from supposed interest-free banking where customers receive zero interest on their deposits while paying more to the banks. "While the banks and their paid Imams and sheiks will make handsome returns, Muslim Canadians will end up as losers, with promises of rewards in the afterlife," she wrote.

"Religion has no place in the banking or mortgage industry and banks should desist from employing imams or sheikhs who sanctify so called Islamic bank products and mortgages. We are not living in the middle ages to get our financial cues from clerics claiming guidance from the divine," she added.

Explaining the deceptive workings of interest-free Sharia banking, as practised by Saudi and other Islamic banks, Ms Hassan said: "Muslim bankers and their hired clerics claim they indulge in interest-free banking, but in reality they hide this interest. So-called Islamic banking institutions claim they operate on "zero interest." However, the fundamental characteristic of charging interest is never truly eliminated in Islamic banking, but rather is hidden.

The MCC president referred the CMHC president to Muhammad Saleem, a former president and CEO of Park Avenue Bank in New York, who has written a book, Islamic Banking — A $300 Billion Deception. Mr. Saleem, who was a senior banker with Bankers Trust where, among other responsibilities, he headed the Middle East division and served as adviser to a prominent Islamic bank based in Bahrain, dismisses the founding premise of Islamic banking, saying, "Islamic banks do not practise what they preach: they all charge interest, but disguised in Islamic garb. Thus they engage in deceptive and dishonest banking practises."

The MCC president also referred the CMHC CEO to another critic of Islamic banking, professor Timur Kuran, who taught Islamic Thought at the University of Southern California, and who has authored, Islam and Mam-mon: The Economic Predicaments of Islamism, Prof. Kuran writes that the effort to introduce sharia banking "has promoted the spread of anti-modern currents of thought all across the Islamic world. It has also fostered an environment conducive to Islamist militancy."
In the letter the MCC president said, an additional and related byproduct of Islamic finance is the legitimization and financial support by Western institutions for the type of radical Islamic scholarship and indoctrination. The need to certify shari’a-compliance of their Islamic products by "qualified shari’a scholars" has created demand for the services of experts that more often than not are the indoctrinated products of radical Wahhabi/Salafi shari’a faculties in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, who generally hold views fundamentally inimical to the most basic values of Western civilization.

Even a cursory look at the names, affiliations and views of popular shari’a scholars, such as Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, Sheikh Muhammad Taqi Usmani, Sheikh Mohamed Ali Elgari, Faysal Mawlawi, Sheikh Nizam Yaquby, Suleyman al-Maniya and others , many of whom sit on the shari’a advisory boards of dozens of Islamic banks and get paid princely sums from each, would make it clear that most are hard line Islamists and, in at least some cases, open supporters of terrorism. She informed the CMHC CEO that Mr. Qaradawi, a prominent Muslim Brotherhood ideologue, for instance, is chairman of the shari’a boards of the two Qatari Islamic banks owned by the ruling families among many others.

In another example, Muhammad Taqi Usmani, a radical Deobandi cleric and a former shari’a court member from Pakistan, who sits on dozens of shari’a boards in the West, is a key executive in the Karachi Deobandi ma-drassa Darul Uloom, which has trained and continues to train thousands of Taliban and jihadist cadres. He was also instrumental in the Pakistani government decision to declare the Ahmadi Muslims apostates and thus com-plicit in the murder and suffering of countless innocent Muslims. He is further on record preaching that Muslims living in the West "must live in peace until strong enough to wage Jihad’ against their fellow-citizens in order "to establish the supremacy of Islam."

The same is true about many of the trustees of various Islamic banking insti-tutions. The Dow Jones Islamic Fund (IMANX), for example, is owned by the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) - a Saudi-controlled non-profit institution that holds title to hundreds of American mosques – which was recently listed by the US Dept of Justice as an unindicted co-conspirator in a terrorism financing trial in Dal-las, Texas.

"We urge the CMHC to not proceed any further with their ill advised initiative to promote Islamic banking in Canada. A crown corporation should not be a party to any venture that strengthens the jihadi movement and leads to the segregation of Muslims from the mainstream," Ms. Hassan added.
Note the difference in emphasis, and see how the Globe's mainstream media attitude of "neutrality" leads it to misrepresent the group, the Muslim Canadian Congress, about which it is reporting.

Getting the MCC right is a tough job, however. Laugh at the idea of "moderate Muslims" if you must take the Koran as literally as bin Laden. But be thankful that we have some of these "apostates" in Canada as a voice of common sense. I have made fun of the MCC, at this blog, for 1) calling for the separation of church/mosque and state; and 2) actively engaging in Canadian politics as a "Muslim" organization, instead of say a Pakistani-Canadian organization, or an ex-Muslim organization; 3) engaging in anti-Israel and anti-American rhetoric.
Now, I'm not sure if my earlier criticism is entirely on the money. I think in some sense they are moderate Muslims and they are doing what all Muslims should be doing: seeking to reform the faith, and to marginalize the orthodox hate mongers, fighting a civil war within the Islamic world, a war in which the rest of us should participate and take sides. Since Islam is itself an inherently political ideology, so must be any opposition, including "religious" opposition, to this "religion".

At the end of the day, what matters is that we preserve the freedoms of Canadian society, where the state (including agencies like the CMHC) does nothing to perform or enforce the dictates of any religion, like the Sharia proscriptions against charging "interest" or publishing Mohammed cartoons, or the Sharia licensing of polygamy. I would not want to suggest, however, that religious groups can't lobby the state on particular issues. But their freedom to do that really depends on the rest of us acting appropriately to guarantee their and our freedom. We must engage them, drawing and enforcing lines. It's all a question of knowing when to laugh religious lobbyists out of the water, or knowing when to label primitive sacrificial violence for what it is, instead of being afraid to unveil the promoters of "Islamic banking" for what they are: according to the MCC, they're religious barbarians. That's the only way that Muslims can find a free and decent place in Canada without helping turn this country much more totalitarian. I don't think the Globe and Mail yet gets it, in its desire to selectively quote and sanitize the letter of the Muslim Canadian Congress.

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