Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sookhdeo Responds to Criticism

October 27, 2011
Post 39--:

In some previous posts about Islamic banking, you have already been introduced to Patrick Sookhdeo. The nature of his work naturally draws criticism from the more intolerant section of the Muslim community, especially in the UK, where he is based.  I herewith share with you his recent defense of his reputation and his ministry.  It is a well reasoned defense that you should enjoy reading.  Bismillah!

Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo responds to critical Guardian article

On September 9 2011, The Guardian newspaper in the UK published an article by Mehdi Hasan, senior political editor of the New Statesman, entitled “How fear of criminalization forces Muslims into silence”. This contained a number of specific and personal criticisms of Barnabas Aid’s International Director, Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo.

This is not the first time in the recent past that this newspaper has published a biased piece highly critical of Dr. Sookhdeo’s work (see also this 2009 blog post by Andrew Brown). But on this occasion he has requested and been given the right of reply, and a shorter and significantly edited version of the article below has been published by The Guardian today. Some points we would have liked to make had to be excluded from that piece for reasons of space or editorial policy, so we are now releasing this fuller version to our supporters.
Allegations such as those in the original article imply that highlighting the causes of anti-Christian hostility and speaking out for the freedom of oppressed Christians in Muslim-majority countries (especially converts from Islam to Christianity) amount to hate speech, and so can be used to discredit our advocacy on behalf of the persecuted Church.

In his recent article, Mehdi Hasan refers to me as a “rightwing ideologue”, a “crude, anti-Islam propagandist” and a “preacher of hate and division”. I want to respond here not only to these specific and personal charges, but also to the social and political claims that he deduces from them.

At the personal level, Mehdi Hasan does not, in fact, provide much of a case for me to answer. The only evidence he cites to support his allegations are the brief references to me in the manifesto of Anders Breivik, the Norwegian mass killer, and a few short quotes from my books. But given the wide range of sources quoted by Breivik, his references to my writings are hardly definite proof of right-wing extremism. And I am content for those who have taken the trouble to study those writings in any detail to judge whether I deserve the epithets applied to me in the article.

More needs to be said, however. Mehdi Hasan suggests that Muslims in Britain today are victims of “negative stereotypes” and “demonization”. Yet he is himself prepared to use equally negative stereotypes to demonize those, including myself, who offer an understanding of contemporary Islam that is different from his own. His strategy is a common one: to defend a weakly supported opinion by accusing his opponents of extremism. But although this may give a spurious respectability to his view, it provides no defense against the serious criticisms that may be brought against that view.

I yield to no-one in my abhorrence of anti-Muslim prejudice, bigotry and hatred in all its forms, and I am on record as speaking out forcefully against it. I have also worked hard on a number of occasions for the causes of endangered and oppressed Muslim minorities. Sheikh Dr. Muhammad Al-Hussaini, Director of Abraham House in the UK, has issued a response (read here) to Mehdi Hasan’s article in which he refers to my campaigning to defend Muslims in the Balkans from slaughter by the Serbs, my defense of Muslims suffering violence in India, and the protection by the church that I then led of a London mosque at a time of anti-Muslim hostility. I count Dr. Al-Hussaini, and many other moderate and liberal Muslims, among my close friends.

But there is a crucial difference between anti-Muslim hatred and legitimate criticism of the religion of Islam. Like any other ideology, Islam must be open to being critiqued, and where its political aspects appear to pose a challenge to fundamental Western values, these issues must be discussed openly and responsibly, without the debate being obscured by charges of “Islamophobia”. It must also be possible to comment on the behavior of individual Muslims where this contravenes our society’s basic norms, without being accused of racism or bigotry.

On YouTube videos Mehdi Hasan appears to refer to non-Muslims and atheists in very derogatory terms: “cattle”, "animals", “people of no intelligence” and even kuffar, a grossly offensive term applied by some Muslims to non-Muslims. (Some of his fellow-Shia Muslims even apply it to Sunni Muslims.) Admittedly, the context of these comments is unclear, but if he expects to enjoy the freedom to use such terms, I wonder on what basis he can argue for the silencing of reasoned and courteous voices that challenge certain aspects of contemporary Islam. I wonder, also, whether The Guardian would have published an article by someone who had seemingly called Muslims “cattle” or “of no intelligence”. Indeed, I wonder if that person would not be reported to the appropriate authorities or even to the police.

Mehdi Hasan queries the influence given to me by Western governments. The political and military leaders who have found my insights worthy of attention can speak for themselves. My work with the armed forces has been focused on facilitating understanding of and dialogue with Muslims, and it has taken place in the context of peace and community relations. This should perhaps be enough at least to gain my views a fair hearing, from anyone not invincibly prejudiced against them.

And there is in fact plenty of evidence from both Muslim and secular sources to support those views. Some parts of the Muslim community really are becoming increasingly isolated from other people, creating enclaves where they live largely according to their own rules. Smaller, more radical elements really do advocate – quite openly – a fully Islamic society under the rule of sharia law. As a result, some areas of British society really are being subtly but progressively Islamized. This process is not an invention of a few “anti-Islam propagandists”; it is a well-documented and significant social change that deserves, indeed demands, a fair-minded debate. I suggest that Mehdi Hasan’s unwillingness even to acknowledge its existence raises questions about his own credibility as a commentator.

I close with a personal note. I am a convert from Islam, and all schools of Islamic law prescribe the death penalty for an adult male Muslim who chooses to leave his faith. Having lived under this death sentence for my entire adult life, I am acutely aware of the plight of apostates from Islam in some Muslim-majority contexts, where they are at real risk of violence or even murder. Even as I write, an Iranian pastor, Youcef Nadarkhani, is on death row in Iran, and may be executed any day. If I had no other reason to speak or write about Islam, then giving these vulnerable people a voice in the West, where their suffering is so often ignored, would be reason enough. My unshakable commitment to liberal Western values requires nothing less.
I am surprised that The Guardian newspaper, which claims to recognize fundamental freedoms and presents itself as a paragon of virtue in this respect, appears to be so little concerned with human rights and freedom of conscience when it comes to Christians far away in non-Western contexts. 

Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo
October 27, 2011

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Islamic Banking (8 ) Attitude Shifts towards Interest

Post 38--:
Both Christians and Muslims should be aware of the widening horizons of the global ummah. Like today’s Islam, it is widely held that pre-Reformation Western Christianity opposed interest and classified it as usury on basis of economic circumstances of the day. Though its secular Calvin-disdaining offspring have taken Calvin's positive attitude towards interest far beyond his so as to almost render their current buccaneering into something totally different, even contemporary Calvinists, including yours truly, accept the concept and necessity as a given without considering it the end of all things business. It would appear that a similar process is taking place among Muslims.

History of Usury-Interest in Western Christianity

The accuracy of the classical myth re. Pre-Reformational views on usury is doubtful: It is not nearly nuanced enough. In his chapter on “Western Europe before Islam,” Henri Pirenne (1862-1935), a Belgian described by his translator Frank D. Halsey as “one of the greatest authorities in the field of medieval history,” explained that “the Church, it is true, constantly forbade clerics, and even laymen, to charge usurious interest. However, both Christian and Jewish merchants commonly lent at interest. In fact, under some regimes it was considered lawful. “Everybody lent money at interest.” Even bishops paid interest. During the Middle Ages, Venetian merchants borrowed money at interest as high as twenty per cent, even though by this time the Church had adopted an ascetic attitude that made her very suspicious of commerce. It would appear that though the official church, the church institute if you will, had become negative towards interest due to an increasing asceticism, the church as organism, the members, used it rather freely.

It is widely understood that it was the reformer John Calvin who helped dissolve the ecclesiastical cloud over interest by initiating a more positive attitude towards the practice on basis of a more liberal, contextual and historical reading of the Old Testament. Over time, it became commonly accepted by all Christians, including those unhappy with the Reformation!

Developments re Interest-Riba in Islam

There is a move in a similar direction among Muslims today. In 2002, the Islamic Theological Research Committee of Egypt's Al-Azhar Institute, “seen by many as the philosophical centre of the dominant Sunni strand of the faith, has voted 21-1 to approve fixed interest rates.” Sheikh Saber Talaab, head of the research committee secretariat, reportedly explained, "So long as we do not go against what is written (in the Koran) or the Sunna (Islamic tradition)….” Besides, it was argued, “The decision was necessary. Religious jurisprudence means change, and it is illogical to remain frozen while the world changes around us.” “We have a clear conscience.” I have argued several times in the course of my series on Christian-Muslim Relations for a more liberal and historical reading of the Qur'an and other main Islamic sources. Well, this change appears to be the result of this more traditional cum liberal reading.

 Fixed versus Historical Interpretation

So, things are not as frozen and fixed as the literalists would have us believe. Before painting all Islamic banking with one broad brush, we must remember that, far from being a monolithic affair, the picture is one of diverse approaches based on dynamic interpretations of Islam and sharia according to local circumstances, meaning that there is room for innovation and change. The writer of the article from which the material in this paragraph is derived wrote about a report on Islamic banking. It “focuses on the role of Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), which is based on interpretation of the Koran, and secondarily, on ijma (consensus).” This approach “offers a lot of room for innovation, particularly with regard to Islamic rules that prohibit elements of financial transactions that are important for the banking industry to grow, prosper and connect to the global economy.” We have again stumbled on the issue of a liberal dynamic interpretation of Islam’s basic documents that is a prerequisite for
viable Islamic banking.

With this I close the discussion on Islamic banking. A lot more can and needs to be said—and most of it has already in books, journals and magazines. For a blog, this is sufficient for now. Perhaps more some other time. Get ready for a change of gears.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Islamic Banking (7)—Sookhdeo Continued

Post 37--:Is

Today we continue the enumeration of problems  associated with Islamic banking as listed by Sookhdeo.

 Why non-Muslims are drawn to Islamic Banking

§       In some countries non-Muslims are drawn to these banks; some, because of good profits; others, because they regard the system “as more ethical, fair, and stable” than the “predatory” Western institutions (pp. 52, 56, 76, 78).

Copies of Western Banks
§       “Contrary to their goals, the tendency is for the emerging Islamic economy to be driven by market forces and to become an integrated subdivision of the Western-dominated global economy.” Some see it as just copies of Western institutions (p. 55).

Creating Artificial Needs and Wants

§       “It is clear that the Islamist movements have artificially generated the need and demand for sharia finance” (p. 79). Boer: If Sookdheo does not object to the ways of Western banks and business in general, why should he object to this feature in Islamic banking? They both do the same thing: Create artificial needs and wants.  The goose and gander kick in once again.

Driven by Politics, not Religion
§       The demand for this system “is not a purely religious phenomenon.”  Sookhdeo holds the “assumption that sharia finance is a politically-driven Islamist invention masked in religious idiom” (p. 79).

Pre-eminence of Divine Directive

§       In spite of the negatives listed above, Sookhdeo admits that to Muslims the sharia connection, “this divine directive,”  “is the preeminent point and the final say in the matter” (p. 53). 

Issues to be Considered by Western Governments

§       The final paragraph in Sookhdeo’s book:  The response of governments and other authorities to this process requires urgent and sustained attention.  Detailed recommendations cannot be provided here, but we suggest that it would at least be prudent for Western governments to exercise more discernment over their…support for sharia finance, at least to the extent of recognizing…its vulnerabilities and in particular its lack of external accountability. At a time of intense debate in Western countries over the proper role of religion in public life, the possibility of sharia finance’s giving to Islam an inappropriate influence over financial and economic policy must also be acknowledged. Political, economic and financial institutions are wise to take note of any possible threat to their own systems, and to provide necessary checks and balances before it takes effect. The provision of rigorous regulatory mechanisms for Islamic practices and products, according to internationally accepted norms, must therefore be a priority (pp. 56-57).  

Summary of Islamic Banking in Various Countries
§       I would urge you to read Appendix 2-4 in Sookhdeo’s book, where he gives a summary of sharia banking in many countries, Muslim, Western and Asian non-Muslim.  It is very enlightening to see how countries react so differently. 
I want you to realize that though his is a very helpful book, it is not an objective book: It is part of Sookhdeo’s anti-Islamist struggle and thus selective in the topics discussed. Do not look for anything positive or supportive. Such a book is legitimate and I do not criticize Soohdeo for it. In fact, I recommend the book highly, especially for Nigeria that is presently trying to give birth to Islamic banking. Much of his critique of the system is derived from Muslims themselves.
But—and this is a criticism--it is also infused throughout with the semi-secularist dualism so common to evangelicals, that shines through all of Sookhdeo’s work and that partially derails it. While he totally condemns Islamic banking, he does not utter a single critique of the secular Western banking system that has only recently cast the world into an unprecedented downward spiral due to its avarice and carelessness. Sorry, not quite true. There is that one exception of one single word: Sookdheo refers to the Western system as “predatory.” Profoundly true. But that’s it.  For the rest, the Western system is implicitly upheld as the standard to which Muslims should conform. Well, that is Evangelicals for you and other Christians afflicted with this semi-secular dualism. It is a serious critique. Missionaries have exported the same worldview into many countries and saddled the church with it. The result is a clumsy and inadequate response on the part of many Christians to Islam.
In spite of that serious critique, Christians, moderate Muslims and governments need to ensure that the budding Islamic banking sector is not in any way tied to militancy and terrorism, whether internally or globally.  Sookhdeo demonstrates very convincingly that much of this sector has such connections. It is the reason some Muslim countries are either cautious or have rejected it altogether.  Any such institution must be shut down immediately with zero tolerance, for if left to operate, it will be like a cancerous worm that will be difficult to eradicate once it has settled in. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Islamic Banking (6) Further Sookhdeo Claims and Assertions

Post 36--:  I   

Wonderful Summer Weather
It’s been and still is a wonderful summer here on Canada’s West Coast, though it was unusually slow in starting.  I have loved it and spent a fair amount of time—weeks in fact—away from my desk and, hence, away from this blog.  Visiting our kids and families in WA and near SF in CA with days of RV-“camping” in between.  Since then, “backyard” RVing in southern BC—with more to come.  If you like a moderate climate without extremes of heat and cold, then BC’s south-west coast and much of Vancouver Island is the place to be. So a bit of a lull, but one you can understand, I believe.  But, while it’s still great summer stuff in the middle of September, here I am, once again slogging/blogging it out.  Welcome to Fall. 

Back to Sookhdeo
Back to Sookhdeo’s claims and assertions re Islamic banking.  They are interesting and challenging.  He worked them out very carefully, which is not saying I support all he writes:
Connection to an Islamist Agenda
§                 Islamic banking is part of the Islamist agenda, to gain support for radical Islam and terrorism and to promote Muslim separatism and even world domination.  Sookhdeo’s list of prominent members of sharia banking boards in the UK are mostly  members of Islamist organizations either with direct terrorist connections or with terrorist offspring. Among the groups he lists is Pakistan’s Jama’at-I-Islami. That should sound familiar to all Nigerians. Would the similarity with their own Jama’atul Nasril Islam (JNI) be purely accidental?  

Moderate Connections?

§                 In the West, these financial institutions “appear outwardly moderate, while secretly pushing for radical goals.” “Although the larger movements [in the UK] claim they are committed to legal methods to attain their goals, their ideology has spawned many radical groups and terrorist organizations” (p. 41).

Inverted Tradition

§                 It is an “invented tradition.”  Such rigid views about interest and profit were not the norm in earlier centuries (pp. 9-10).

Based on Legal Tricks

§                 The system is based on “legal tricks, the interest simply being hidden and relabeled. It has been described as “deception” (pp. 23, 25, 32, 37-38).

Lacking Accountability and Transparency

§                 The system lacks normal and proper accountability and transparency protocols and is not subject to a “robust regulatory framework.”  It can more easily conceal its activities than can Western-type banks. Corruption is a serious problem (pp. 42-47, 51, 63).  

Violates Spirit of Sharia

§                 It “violates the spirit of sharia and may facilitate the activities of criminal financial actors,” including money laundering (pp. 23, 42-43).

Creates Muslim Captive Market

§                 It is a tool to create a “captive market” of Muslims who will deal only with Islamic banks, separates Muslims from the economic main stream and exploits them. Even the British involvement is aimed more at attracting huge amounts of petrodollars than in meeting the demands and needs of the British Muslim community. The latter is “used simply as a pious cover” (pp. 25-27, 79).

Fails to Relief Poverty

§                 Islamic economics, including banking, have “dismally failed in relieving poverty” in Muslim countries (pp. 25, 55).

Not Based on Muslim Concensus

§                 Western bankers and other authorities falsely assume that Islamic banking represents the consensus of the entire Muslim community. In fact, most Arab governments “were at first hostile or ambivalent….” Even today Libya and Morocco refuse them licenses, while some other North African governments “are extremely cautious in their approach….” These negative reactions are due to the perceived links of the system to Islamism.  Oman does not allow Islamic banks “because it believed banks should be universal, not specific.” 75 per cent of British Muslims are said to be “indifferent to sharia finance and that there was no automatic demand for it.” 83 per cent “questioned the necessity” of it.  50 per cent wondered how Islamic these institutions really are (pp. 38-39, 61, 69, 78-79).  

Confusion Caused by Different Traditions and Interpretations

§                 Different sharia traditions and interpretations by various scholars cause confusion (pp. 45, 50-51). 

Shortage of Experts Leads to Extortion

§                 The entire system is dependent on sharia experts in Islamic finance. There is a great shortage of these so that a small body of experts are found on many boards across the world. Some up to 30!  They charge up to $10,000 per hour! (pp. 49-50)

NOTE:  The pagination in the above paragraphs refer to pages in Sookhdeo’s Understanding Sharia Finance.  You can find these summaries in my series Studies in Christian-Muslim Relations, vol. 8, chapter 9).

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Post 36--:    
We’re not done with Islamic banking, but events keep getting in the way of completing the series. In my estimation it’s better to flow with current events than to stick dogmatically to a series. You can’t just ignore the end of Ramadan in a blog like this one. I will, of course, get back to the banking issue, probably in the next blog or so, if no other events intervene again.  I can already see that current renewed violence in my former home town, Jos, Nigeria, needs attention. 

Todd on Ramadan Greening
Some of these posts address both Muslims and Christians; some, either one but not primarily both, though both are of course always welcome to sit in.  This one is especially to inform Christian readers of developments within the Muslim community, while my Muslims friends should feel free to read and participate in the discussion.  In fact, at the end of this post they are invited to join Christians in joint ecological efforts.
One new emphasis in Ramadan observance this year is increasing awareness of the need to apply eco-friendly measures to the entire month.  Muslims are not immune to changes taking place around them.  They face the same eco problems the rest of us face.  Douglas Todd of the Vancouver Sun wrote an article entitled “The Greening of Ramadan, the Reducing of Waste” (August 29, 2011),  in which he wrote the following:  “During an era in which humans are growing more concerned about over-using the planet’s resources, more and more Muslims are reframing Ramadan as a time of eco-responsibility, guided by the Muslim principles of moderation and ethical treatment of animals.” Again, “Environmentalism is becoming big in many Muslim circles.”   

The Christian Record

Muslims are undergoing the same eco-transformation that started stirring Christians some decades ago.  Though the Christian Bible contains much that should have led them to environmental concerns much, much earlier, like so many religionists, their vision was shaped more by the culture of which they were a part than by the Bible.  But when the destructive forces the culture unleashed became too severe to ignore any longer, Christians, along with their fellow citizens, became aware of what was/is happening. At that time, their spiritual eyes also opened to the eco messages embedded in Scripture, messages they should have recognized much earlier, and they began to participate in the eco movement, sometimes together with others, sometimes within the church context.  They began to preach and teach eco issues; they published books and magazine articles; they conducted classes in their churches and developed environmental departments in their colleges and universities.  One of my own pastors got her undergraduate degree in ecology.  In short, Christians jumped on the eco bandwagon, eventually with considerable vigour.  So, along with everyone else, they participated in the destruction and now, along with everyone else, they participate in eco-saving movements. It would be interesting to explore why they were so blind before.  Those who know me well from my books or from my other blogs, can probably already guess where I would go with this (see post 44 in my blog < Worldly Christianity.blogspot.com >), but that’s for another post. 

Muslim Eco Developments

Canadian Muslims participate in Canadian life and are influenced by it.  Perhaps more than some people would expect. They, too, are worried about the environment and are beginning to recognize and apply Qur’anic passages that, like Christians, they should have recognized long ago, but were too embedded in their culture to notice. But they’re now coming aboard and applying them to Ramadan observances.  They are beginning to object to “the mountains of styrofoam food containers” that are produced by their “giant communal potluck feasts” at Ramadan celebrations.  Todd gives various examples of how Muslims and their institutions are starting to pay attention and making arrangements for reduced wasteful consumption as well as for reduced mountains of Styrofoam.  They are now creating websites dealing with the issues, many of them, according to Todd. There is < Khalafa: A Sacred Trust > run by Muaz Nazir, a conservation officer with the city of Toronto, and < BeyondHalal > that teaches greater compassion for animals and reduced eating of meat.

Congratulations and Invitation
Now that Muslims have completed another Ramadan celebration, it is fitting for their Christian neighbours to congratulate them for this strenuous achievement and to invite them aboard in joint ecological efforts so that we can all respond together to God’s call for responsible living and stop the spiral of destruction we have together unleashed. 

 Todd, thank you.  Muslims, God bless.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Islamic Banking (5)—Association with Terrorism Continued

Post 35--:     
Introducing Patrick Sookdheo
In this and the next post I am featuring Patrick Sookdheo, Director of the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity as well as of Barnabas Fund, both located in London.  His recent book, Understanding Sharia Finance, is a must read for Christians, but not merely a read; it also needs challenging along the way, something I engage in as I proceed with this blog.

 Muslim Controversy re Riba
According to Sookhdeo and some Muslim writers he quotes, sharia banking is a new phenomenon not even required by sharia. He provides an example of lending at interest from the early Muslim period and shows that it was widely practiced throughout the centuries. It was during the Middle Ages that “Islamic literature began to emphasize extreme asceticism,” a process that seems parallel to simultaneous Christian developments. See Post 36 about this. This movement led to increasing opposition to high interest especially. Actually, though practised all along the way, lending money at interest was never without challengers, it was always the subject of controversy, and often carried out under disguise.  It was usury that was strongly condemned, i.e. high interest over fifteen per cent. After demonstrating conclusively that the taking of interest had become very common practice during the 19th century, Sookhdeo concludes that the declaration of Egypt’s al-Azhar (see Post 36) was simply in keeping with main street practice over the centuries.

Muslim Influence on Western Banking
I find it very interesting that, according to Sookhdeo, it appears that medieval Islam established a practice that became one of the foundations of Western banking, namely the use of cheques for money transfers. Others have made parallel claims for early sharia influence on the development of Western law and for Muslim contributions to Western science. So, we have here another indication of a significant early Muslim contribution to the foundations of the modern West—and another indication that Islamic institutions and developments deserve more than contempt from Christians. 

Muslim Banking and Islamism
Sookhdeo regards Islamic banking “as part of the Islamist agenda to subvert and subjugate Western systems under the rule of Islam” and has plenty of justification for this position. Quoting liberally from Muslim authorities throughout his book, he “reveals the connections between Islamic finance and radical Islamic groups” as well as highly placed individuals. This notion is repeated frequently throughout the book and could be said to constitute its main theme. Islamic banking “offers terrorist jihadi groups a discreet way in which to raise and move …large amounts of money….”  He goes out of his way to trace the connections between Islamic banking and the global Islamist movement—and these are many and substantial. His is not an exercise in generalities: He provides dates, names of persons, organizations and conferences and every possible kind of concrete facts to support his assertions. The main goals of Islamic economics are political and religious, not financial, namely to gain support for radical Islam and to promote Muslim separatism. After all is said and done, Islamic banking is an economic tool to implement a new sharia world order.  It is part of the Muslim jihad to take over the world. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Islamic Banking (4)

Post 34--: 

Sorry for the interruption on this series, but now we're back on track.  I cannot predict at this point how long we will keep going on this subject.  It's a biggie, though most of us may not yet have experienced any of it personally but have only read about it. But it's coming and it may not be long before you will have Islamic banking as your system of choice.  It may not necessarily be a specifically Muslim bank you are looking at. It could be a main stream bank that has incorporated Islamic accounts or even whole departments in its offerings.  Even with Muslim-controlled banks of this nature, you generally do not have to be Muslim to conduct your banking business with them any more than you have to be a secularist to deal with secular capitalist banking. If you want to know my sources or you want more details, I refer you to my volume 8-2, chapter 9.  You can find that on < lulu.com > under e-books.

I apologize for the strange way in which the text overlaps the left margin.  It has something to do with copying it from that book. It will not budge, try as I may.  That brings with it the difficulty that I cannot edit the material across the border while in the editing mode, for I cannot see it.  If you, my reader, have any advice on correcting this, please offer your help. I am not proud, at least not in this respect.  Even this morning my 11-year old granddaughter Asia Tanis had to advice me on a certain procedure. The first time she served as my advisor was eight years ago. She was three at the time!

Blind Condemnation
There are many Westerners, including Christians, who look at
the proliferation of sharia banking in theWest with ColdWar eyes.
They see an ever-advancing Islamic bulldozer that they fear will
eventually take over the banking and business sector along with the
rest of life. Hence, sometimes without doing any careful analysis as
to its merits and demerits, they simply condemn it and implicitly
put their stamp of approval on the secular banking establishment.
16 The attitude of these Christians is as astounding as the
shamelessness of capitalism’s economic captains and as amazing as
the failure of the US Government to monitor these developments
before they unfolded. Blindly prefer that kind of raw secular system
over a system that puts ethics at the front, ethics, moreover, that
show affinity with Christian thought?

Patrick Wood's Miracle
Patrick Wood, founder of an online magazine, The August
Review, published a long harangue that begins with a Biblical quotation.
Then comes a description of sharia and its banking system,
all in a spirit of the crudest hostility. Then the story about
howWestern banking systems are incorporating sharia into their
operations. And then the clincher: “International bankers have
long ago proven themselves to be completely amoral when it comes
to money. They bankrolled the Bolshevik Revolution in 1918 just
as blithely as they bankrolled Hitler in the 1930’s.” And this
“Christian” prefers that raw amoral system to one that has some
ethical balls?! Without any responsible analysis and comparison? It
really is unbelievable. If I did not believe in “miracles” before,
Wood has just forced me.
Connections with Terrorism?
True, Wood did allege connections between sharia banking,
Wahabi school of Islam and even terrorism. Initially I was instinctively
inclined to doubt that, given his wild kind of presentation
and the merger in process with the Western banking systems.
Surely, I first thought, Western banks would be aware of such connections
and guard against them. Upon second thought, ifWestern
banks supported the Bolsheviks and the Nazis, what would prevent
them from supporting today’s terrorists? If the bottom line is not
ethics or service but money…. Wood totally puzzles me. If he
rejects sharia banking for their connections with terrorism, why
would he support the “amoral”—his own term— Western system
that had similar terrorist connections in the past if not in the present?

Things just don’t add up!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

“Christian” Extremist Jihad

Post 33--:

We’re in Sharia Banking country at the moment, but this needs to be interrupted by the  recent shocking violence in the paradise of peace known as Norway.  Since Christians along with the entire West are always blaming Muslims and Islam for terrorism, it is necessary that I as a Christian blogger address this “Christian” attack.

Reasons for Breivik's Terror
I don’t intend to rehash the event itself as it happened and subsequently unfolded.  That’s what the media are for. But I do want to comment on some of the things I read and heard.  As always, various reasons and causes for this event have been offered.  No doubt many of them have elements of truth to them. All of them will have contributed in some way and to some extent.  There is, of course, the ubiquitous Marxist economic explanation: It was due to economic conditions, these conditions then seen as encompassing almost everything else.  Probably there was an economic element to it, but certainly not that Breivik himself is poor.  You don’t lease a farm and, on that basis, buy enough chemicals to prepare for this attack, if you don’t have access to raw cash.  Neither can it be attributed to lack of education, not when he wrote a document of some 1500 pages.  Not even most highly educated people could manage that.  

European Restlessness
I tend to give more credence to the role of restlessness that has developed in Western Europe with respect to immigration issues, especially Muslim immigration.  The West’s extreme secularism, its dominant and main stream orientation, has naturally called up its obvious opposition, the “extreme right.” It seems that this “extreme right” has bubbled to the surface in every Western European country.  Of course, it does not take much to be dubbed extreme by the secular media.  You may not be more extreme than the secularist community, but since you are not main stream, you will be considered extreme simply because you represent its “opposite” in some way and make the secularists uncomfortable. Applying the epithet “extreme” is their declaimer and puts you at a safe distance.

Secularism vs "Extreme Right"
Though I do not approve of or support this “extreme right” anymore than I do secularism, I do sympathize with them in some way or, at least, understand their reaction.  They are reacting at the situation of indiscriminate Muslim immigration created by blind and ignorant secularists who were assuming all along that “these Muslims” will become rational and normal like their Western hosts.  That is to say, they were expected to become secular naturally, for is that not the reasonable and natural way to be?  Just like Muslims feel it is natural for every one to be or become Muslim, so  many secularists think it natural for every one to be or become secular.  Muslims proved them wrong and threw them into a dither from which they have not yet emerged.  The “extreme right” is a natural reaction to that extreme left of main stream secularism.  It was to be expected, us humans being the polarizing animals that we are as especially Herman Dooyeweerd, the main Kuyperian philosopher, has clearly shown us.  As it is sometimes said that Western sects like Jehovah Witnesses are the unpaid bills of the church, so is the “extreme right” the unpaid bill of secularism.  

A Pre-Emption
I must pre-empt a misinterpretation.  I am not suggesting that Muslims should not have been allowed in the West.  However, if the secular(ized) politicians and bureaucrats had not been so blind to the nature of religion in general and not been burdened with their secular tunnel vision, if they had been blessed with the clear and comprehensive view of religion in general as embodied in the Kuyperian movement, they would have had different expectations and therefore developed more realistic policies.  And if they had been blessed with a clear understanding of Islam, that might have given them even better guidance.  Unfortunately, even the Kuyperians among them were lacking here as we can see in The Netherlands, the source country of Kuyperians, in spite of the fact that “Father Abraham” Kuyper wrote a fairly penetrating 2-volume tome on the Mediterranean Muslim community a century ago.  (See my translation of a key chapter at www.lulu.com. Just type in < Kuyper-Boer >.)  

Breivik a Christian?
Breivik is dubbed a “Christian extremist.”  He does claim to be a convinced Christian. Translating from a Dutch translation of the Norwegian original, he said of himself, “I am a baptized Protestant and had that voluntarily confirmed when I was fifteen.” But he is totally dismayed about the state of the Protestant Church and considers it a joke.  Should we accept his self-designation as Christian?  Jesus warns us not to judge a man’s heart, but He also affirms that one can judge a tree by its fruits. If Breivik were a member of my denomination, the Christian Reformed Church in North America, he would traditionally have been placed under formal ecclesiastical discipline and banned from Communion as well as all official positions and functions.  He would become the object of intense pastoral care. If he were to resist the church’s overtures, refuse to confess his sin and reject repentance, he would eventually be excommunicated and considered to be beyond the pale, a non-Christian. Breivik may consider himself a Christian, but I judge his ambitions and acts of violence as totally unchristian.

Christianity and Violence
At any rate, Muslims often complain that Islam is unfairly accused of generating violence and terrorism. They are looking for an acknowledgement that Christians also engage in violence and terrorism.  In the past, they have pointed to Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma.  Sometimes they point to the various mass shootings that occasionally take place in North America. To what extent any of these shootings are triggered by twisted versions of the Christian faith, I do not know.  But, bluntly put, I cannot possibly recognize any of these acts as triggered by Biblical Christianity.  Seems simply impossible to me. As to the Crusades, the Christian church or its members have time upon time expressed their disapproval of that movement. I see it as an action by a Christian community that was still very close to its pagan past and which, along with most of the world, considered warfare and other forms of violence a normal and legitimate part of life. It was an era described in the Old Testament as, “In the spring, when kings go to war….” They would not have had the “patience” we display today with the current unjust stalemate between the Palestinians and Israel. They would have just marched in with their hordes and blown up the whole place.  Muslims should discontinue their custom of considering everything the West or Westerners do as Christian.  Mainline Islam denies that Muslims always act as Muslims; same with Christians and Christianity.  Terrorists may be Muslims but their terrorism is not motivated by Islam; same with the McVeighs and Breiviks of this world. The most awful things have been perpetrated by both Christians and Muslims, but I can vouch that none of it could ever be justified or was ever motivated by Biblical Christianity.  Most Muslims would say the same of Islam, but I would not be the right party to vouch for that.   

Promise re Next Post
In the next blog we return to Islamic Banking, I promise, but, as with everything else in this world, inshallah.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Islamic Banking (3)

Post 32  

While the last two posts presented you with two different Nigerian viewpoints on Islamic banking, today I begin to share with you some of my own perspective.  My material is laced with quotations from my book Christians and Muslims: Parameters for Living Together (Vol. 8-2 of my Studies in Christian-Muslim Relations, ch. 9.  Remember, you can access it free of charge from  < www.lulu.com > by just typing  < jan h boer >).  Since it is both a rather complicated and important subject, I will be dealing with it in a number of posts, though I have not planned it well enough to predict how many.  

Wisdom of Islamic (and Canadian) Economies
That Chapter 9 begins with a quotation from Amr al-Faisal, a board member of a holding company that owns several Islamic banks and other financial institutions:

The ugly side ofWall Street is exposed; it’s always been there but
covered by a layer of glamour that is now stripped away. We are
more conservative and sober in our investments. That used to be
considered a handicap. Now it’s considered the height of wisdom (p. 313).

I know, quoting is a kind laziness, something that will get me nowhere, as the saying goes.  But I did want to share this quote from the midst of the recent economic tsunami—November, 2008.  If you did not know the origin of this quote, you might have surmised that the speaker was describing the Canadian situation at the time.  Canada, too, had been more conservative in its investment policies and was sometimes sneered at by its more adventurous cousins south of her border, but it came out of the tsunami with comparatively flying colours, more so than any other major Western economy.  It turned out that “adventurous” really was a mask for recklessness, a feature that Islamic banking allegedly avoids.  OK, so laziness will get me nowhere, but a bit of patriotism won’t hurt.  With those overwhelming and boastful neighbours to our south, our Canadian self-image needs such a lift occasionally.  So far the digression.  Phew! Got that off my chest!

Why the Call for Islamic Banking
Returning to Nigeria, why would her Muslims clamour for Islamic banking?  That call was heard from way before the recent tsunami and way before anyone had ever heard of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the scholarly chief of the Central Bank of Nigeria who is currently spearheading the drive for Islamic Banking.  For the latest here, I encourage you to check the internet under headings like “Nigeria: Islamic (or: Sharia) banking” and you will get an eyeful. 

A Nigerian Muslim scholar, Ibrahim Sulaiman, explains what initially prompted the call of Sharia banking:
Colonialists found a viable legal and economic system in place in what became Northern Nigeria. The British undermined the sharia legal system and largely replaced it with foreign British Common Law.  That is indeed what happened, but not only in the legal world. Sulaiman explains that the same process took place in economics. The British replaced the indigenous Muslim economic system with capitalism. Among the educated elite with their colonialized mentality, the Muslim approach to economics was slowly forgotten. He wrote, “If Nigeria does not know the nature of the Islamic economic system, then she has an obligation to learn it with a view to applying it. Ignorance of a system which still influences the lives of the majority of this nation’s people is an unspeakable national disgrace. Must anyone be surprised that Nigeria has sunk into an economic disaster?” Please turn to volume 4 of my series, appendix 6, where Sulaiman argues for Muslim corrections to Nigeria’s economic system. Among others, he proposed that Muslims must create a Muslim banking system (pp. 314-315).

Call for Decolonization
Having written that 8-volume series as well as a tome of a doctoral dissertation on colonialism in Nigeria and a couple of other books on related subjects (see the Boeriana page on my  < SocialTheology.com > ), I can vouch for the accuracy of Sulaiman’s explanation.  That’s exactly what happened.  And that’s a major reason I am sympathetic towards the Muslim call for Islamic banking, for the Nigerian experience is a common one where, over the decades and even centuries, capitalism in its colonial and subsequent editions suppressed Islamic economics and imposed its own Western system. Many Muslims now have woken up from their slumber and recognize the poison pill they had been dealt.  The call for sharia banking is at least partially a call for the continuing liberation of the Muslim world from colonial shackles. 

Need for Christian Support
Though Christians largely supported colonialism in the past, they have since come to recognize colonialism for what it really was and therefore now recognize it as an evil arrangement that should never have been and that they should never have supported to begin with.  Since Christians now sympathize with all attempts at undoing colonial situations, including those practiced by non-Western nations, they should also be more sympathetic towards the Islamic banking movement, since that is part of the de-colonization movement, of the liberation that Sulaiman is talking about.

Liberation, de-colonization, allowing a people their own culture are today recognized as issues with which Christians would naturally sympathize. They have become part of our “common sense” or “shared values” that few people will challenge today. That being the case, Islamic banking should get a more sympathetic ear from them. 

Of course, this is not the only issue.  Others will follow in succeeding posts.  Curious? Stay with me.