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"U.S. companies and Islamic law," Rachel Ehrenfeld and Alyssa
A. Lappen call for the U.S. government to outlaw the Dow Jones
Islamic Markets index. No joke.
Ronald Radosh claimed one of the bad "isolationist" ideas was
that "war means militarism and repression at home." He’s wrong.
If neoconservatives want to repress a stock index of all things,
free speech is not far behind. President Bush just blasted
criticism of how the Iraq War began as "deeply irresponsible"
Jones Indexes recently licensed its Islamic Market Turkey Index
to Family Finans House, Turkey’s largest noninterest banking
house, to be the basis for an Exchange Traded Fund on the
Istanbul Stock Exchange. The Turkish market is up 20% this year.
The U.S. market is up 2%.
Turkish index is part of a Dow Jones family of about 31 Islamic
indexes composed of about 1,200 Shari’ah compliant stocks
globally. These companies do not produce alcohol or pork-related
products, conventional banking services, entertainment,
tobacco, defense and weapons.
America, there are similar mutual funds called
"socially-conscious" funds that preclude investing in certain
types of businesses. What is so special about Muslim
preferences? They’re Muslim, that’s what.
According to Ehrenfeld and Lappen, Islam isn’t kosher: "In their
urgent desire to find new markets, Americans have opened the
door to Islamist expansionism." These products "are catering
exclusively to Muslims," and "only advance the Islamic impetus
to impose sharia-governed banking on the West." They say "there
is no reason for American banks, businesses and investment firms
to introduce Islam or any other religion into the U.S. capital
markets." Since sharia, they say, "is the same Islamic ideology
that is used by Islamic terrorists, its acceptance in any civil
forum is not a good thing."
do not even bother to qualify their statements with radical
Muslim or Islamo-fascist Muslim, just any Muslim will do. The
number of American Muslims might be 2 million or more. If they
want to follow or buy these Islamic stocks, they don’t count.
Dow Jones doesn’t count either, nor do all other investors,
domestic or foreign, who might like to invest in Islamic
securities. (Diversification pays.) The people in Muslim lands
don’t count who might benefit if the companies issuing these stocks
trade in a worldwide market and obtain capital at a lower cost.
Americans and others don’t count who might do business with these
companies that are based in Muslim lands. The companies, they
don’t count either. Freedom doesn’t count. Free trade doesn’t
count. The profit motive doesn’t count, and satisfying customers
doesn’t count because "there is no reason" for these indexes.
Nothing counts except to keep America pure and untainted by
"Islamic ideology." Islam isn’t kosher.
authors seriously claim that Islamic indexes introduce religion
into the capital market. Such indexes are treyf. To win the war
on terror, we must not allow preferences to influence loans or
investments. Freedom does not count. This is not repression?
neoconservative Committee on the Present Danger (CPD) that
sponsored this paper is allied to the neoconservative Foundation
for the Defense of Democracies (FDD). The President of CPD,
Clifford D. May, is also President of the Foundation for the
Defense of Democracies (FDD). Five of the top six officials at
FDD (Steve Forbes, Jack Kemp, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Newt Gingrich,
and R. James Woolsey) also are on CPD.
legitimate for high-level financial backing for the FDD to stem
from, among others, such Jewish figures as Dalck Feith (father
of Douglas), Leonard Abramson, members of the Bronfman family,
Bernard Marcus, and Michael Steinhardt. Mr. May says that the
founders of the FDD helped secure funding for the CPD by getting
their friends to contribute. It is all right for AIPAC to
influence American politics. But it is not all right for Dow
Jones to compute and publish stock indexes. Is this fair?
Religion can be introduced into American politics, but American
business must not introduce Islam into capital markets. What’s
logically next? The U.S. must ban American Depository Receipts
(ADRs) of foreign stocks from selected countries that do not toe
the American line. Then the bans can be extended to American
companies doing business in disapproved countries. The Congress
can then introduce sanctions against Americans doing business
with anyone who does business with anyone in a Muslim country.
Why not ban movies like The Thief of Baghdad, Flame of Araby,
and Casablanca? Why not ban Persian rugs and carpets? None of this is
are instructed not to support sharia because that is the "same
Islamic ideology" that the terrorists use. Hitler was Roman
Catholic. Therefore, shun all Roman Catholics.
Ehrenfeld and Lappen applaud Ontario’s Premier Dalton McGuinty
who wants Ontario to outlaw arbitration according to sharia in
the Muslim Community by the Islamic Institute of Civil Justice
in civil cases. The Islamic Institute of Civil Justice offers
binding arbitration for those who voluntarily choose to use the
service, and the parties "are free to use the laws that they
wish to rely upon." When it comes to anything Islam, Ehrenfeld
and Lappen do not favor freedom.
colleague at Harvard Business School, Benjamin C. Esty, has a
case study called "The International Investor: Islamic Finance
and the Equate Project." He also has a note explaining Islamic
Finance. Why? He writes: "With more than a billion Muslims
living primarily in regions with enormous infrastructure needs
(the Middle East, Asia, and Africa), there is a growing need to
understand Islamic culture, traditions, and financial systems."
Instead of a clash of civilizations, which is not inevitable and
far from desirable, mutual understanding and trade that
benefits all are the remedy for suspicion and warfare.
an earlier article, Financial Jihad, Ehrenfeld and Lappen speak
of "the Islamic impetus to impose Sharia-governed banking on
the West." They do not say how the Islamic system is enforced on
Americans. They can’t, because whoever uses it does so
Ehrenfeld and Lappen’s method of character assassination in this
article is to link legitimate businesses to Muslims whom they
then link to others whom they criticize. In other words, they
use the technique of guilt by association. Dow Jones, for
example, consulted with an acknowledged and respected financial
expert named Yusuf Talal DeLorenzo who wrote: "It is my
conviction that the Dow Jones Islamic Market Index represents a
service of inestimable magnitude to investors the world over,
regardless of their religious persuasions. For Muslims, however,
the service is even greater for the reason that they now have access to
a financial information tool that will allow them to live their
religious ideals in today's marketplace. To my way of thinking,
the Dow Jones Islamic Market Index represents a triumph of
religious and ethical virtues in the marketplace, and opens the
way for a whole new financial sector."
turn, Ehrenfeld and Lappen point out that Dr. DeLorenzo is a
member of the Fiqh Council of North America. I cannot verify
this, although he was secretary in 1999. According to writer
Steven Emerson, the Fiqh Council "harbors many
terror-sympathizers." A complete evaluation of this charge is
beyond the scope of this article. I wish only to point out the bias
and unfairness in Ehrenfeld and Lappen’s attacks on Dr. DeLorenzo.
They have not found one thing, civil or criminal, that he has
ever done wrong.
Emerson writes that one of the council members (Al-Awani) is "an
unindicted co-conspirator in the case against Sami al-Arian,
the alleged North American leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad."
The chain runs Dow Jones to DeLorenzo to Al-Awani to Al-Arian.
Al-Arian is on trial in Florida, and the jury is deliberating at
this moment. No matter how this turns out, and this case itself
is a celebrated one, it has nothing to do with DeLorenzo, Dow
Jones, or Islamic methods of finance that have developed over
hundreds of years.
contrast, The Jewish Week, which is an independent community
newspaper serving New York, wrote a laudatory article on
DeLorenzo in 1999, noting that he was advising Dow Jones on
"stocks that are ‘kosher’ for Muslim investors." The article
pointed out that Dow Jones was also considering indexes for
"Orthodox Jews and Bible Belt Christians."
Ehrenfeld and Lappen ring alarm bells because large and small
U.S. financial institutions are integrating Islamic products.
They view Islamic banks and products as not corresponding to
U.S. banking law. In fact, because interest on debt is not
allowed, the Islamic finance uses equity and profit as a
substitute. Financial products are often fungible.
their dismay? Because Muslims are "blatantly pursuing ulterior
motives." They are? All of them? Prove it. Islamic banking is
financial jihad. It is? Because a Muslim once said so?
common cloth of neoconservativism is many things. Here we see
oversimplification, extremism, single-mindedness, suspicion,
intolerance, and misunderstanding.
see smearing, defamation, and vilification. A Saudi banking
scholar said at a Harvard conference that Islamic finance
incorporated altruism as well as self-interest, that it
ameliorated the excesses of capitalism, and that it yielded a
fairer distribution of benefits. Whether this statement is
accurate or not, Ehrenfeld and Lappen say "it fits well with bin
Laden’s statement" to the effect that "Muslim companies should
become self-sufficient in producing goods equal to the products of
Western companies." This they term bin Laden’s "economic warfare."
There are many interpretations of these statements, some
favorable, others not. Their accuracy and utility are not the
issue. The point is how these authors link a non-aggressive
characterization of Islamic financial practice to a
non-aggressive statement made by bin Laden in order to discredit
both Islamic finance and anyone who plays any role in
closing line in Ehrenfeld and Lappen’s article asks "Why are
Western banking and financial officials and regulators playing
into bin Laden’s hands?" How do they reach this preposterous
conclusion? By another neoconservative habit: the illogical
leap. The more I read them, painful as it is, the more I am
reaching the conclusion that neoconservatives simply can’t think straight. Or if they can, they dissemble when they argue publicly.
illogical leap appears at convenient times after stating
various facts or supposed facts. The U.S. is a superpower
(fact). Therefore, the U.S. should seek global hegemony
(illogical leap). Saddam Hussein has WMD (supposed fact).
Therefore, the U.S. should take him out (illogical leap). Iran
is seeking nuclear weapons (assume true). Therefore, the U.S.
should introduce Special Forces into Iran and foment a revolution
(illogical leap). Syria supports Palestinian causes and terrorists
(true). Therefore, the U.S. should make war on Syria (illogical
leap). Islam has its own methods of finance (true). Therefore,
to fight terrorism, America should outlaw Islamic finance
(illogical leap). In some of these cases, it will be found that
other implicit illogical leaps are being made. For example, in
some of the instances just mentioned, the illogical leap is that
what benefits Israel also benefits the U.S., or crudely
speaking Israel = America. This should read Israel does not
equal America, and neither does neoconservatism.