Why Not Islamic Banking?

–Our prejudices may be depriving us of an answer—We think of Shariah law as an outmoded and cruel judicial system cutting off the hands of thieves, so typical of a religion we do not trust. But Islam is thankfully more than our perception of it, and is not limited by our ignorance. The Koran forbids usury. As a result religious Muslims and Islamic states have developed banking systems that in conforming to the anti-usury laws also avoids the excesses of capitalism. University Bank in Ann Arbor, Mich, owned and operated by two Catholic brothers created a whole subsidiary to comply with Shariah laws in order to serve their Muslim clients. It has since shown that the resulting “mortgage alternative” type of financing for residential and commercial real estate can be profitable and avoid the pitfalls that have blighted our economy. Last week as the market plunged, University Bank had one of its best periods, recording the sale of 11 homes.
Early in March the fifth World Islamic Economic Forum meeting in Jakarta suggested the West should adopt Islamic financial practices as part of overcoming the global economic crisis. Some even urged undertaking “missionary work” to promote it. When the missionaries come, or even if we need to begin the work ourselves, we ought to put our prejudices away and listen to how “mortgage alternatives” can be used to everyone’s advantage.