It’s getting harder for U.S. financial institutions — some now taxpayer-backed — to back “Shariah compliant” policies that help entities tied to Iran-backed terrorism.
It was treated as big news on Tuesday when Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau indicted Chinese executive Li Fang Wei and his company for using New York banks to finance the sale of tons of restricted, weapons-related material to Iran. But the truth is that some of these same banks and other major financial institutions, including those bailed out by American taxpayers, for years have deliberately been supporting “Shariah-compliant” financial policies that almost assuredly end up being used to support illicit Middle Eastern, terrorist interests with close ties to Iran.
That’s all the more reason why more and more American states are wisely divesting from companies that do business in Iran, Sudan, and perhaps Syria and other nations or entities that support terrorism. To date, 13 states, either legislatively or administratively, have divested pension funds, investment funds, or other holdings from businesses dealing with Iran or other terror-related nations. Any day now — perhaps even today — Indiana will become the 14th, with its “divest terror” measure already having passed both the House and a Senate committee unanimously. At least five other states are considering similar moves.
This nationwide effort is being spearheaded by “Divest Terror,” a project of the Center for Security Policy. Also under CSP auspices is “Shariah Finance Watch,” which like “Divest Terror” is led by New Orleans native Christopher Holton, formerly head of the Blanchard and Company Economic Research Unit.
“Unfortunately we’ve been funding both sides of this war,” Holton said. “On the one hand we’re providing corporate life support to the ayatollahs by investing in foreign companies that do business with countries that U.S. companies are forbidden from doing business with. We need to stop. That’s the Divest Terror side.
“On the Shariah Finance side we are allowing the enemy threat doctrine into our culture, society and legal system through our financial back door at the same time we are sending money through ‘zakat’ payments to Islamic charities that have been proven time and time again to support terrorist groups.
“On the Divest Terror side we think companies should have to make a choice between getting access to U.S. capital markets and doing business with the ayatollahs. On the Shariah Finance side, we believe that Shariah is seditious and should be outlawed in the United States, because it calls for the replacement of our Constitution with Islamic law: Shariah.”
To understand all this, one must understand both Shariah and “zakat.” The anodyne Wikipedia definition of Shariah is “the body of Islamic law” which not only involves public laws but also “deals with many aspects of day-to-day life, including politics, economics, banking, business, contracts, family, sexuality, hygiene, and social issues.” As summed up concisely by National Review’s Andrew McCarthy, who as a federal prosecutor secured the conviction of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and 11 others for planning the 1993 World Trade Center bombings, Shariah “establishes a state religion, rejects the freedom of citizens to govern themselves irrespective of a religious code, proscribes freedom of conscience, proscribes economic freedom, destroys the principle of equality under the law, subjugates non-Muslims in the humiliation of dhimmitude, and calls for the execution of homosexuals and apostates.” It is Shariah, for instance, that (most analysts agree) requires such things as “honor killings” of women for “loose morals,” along with a denial of free speech for non-Muslims.
“Zakat,” meanwhile, is in concept rather benign: It basically amounts to a requirement to donate a percentage of income for charitable purposes. At its simplest, Shariah-compliant finance is corporate activity that provides a zakat for charities approved by Islamic authorities. It would seem, therefore, to be merely an example of cultural sensitivity for American banks and other companies to have Shariah-compliant divisions. Who can object to giving money to charities?
The Center for Security Policy, that’s who. And for good reason. To determine which charities qualify for zakat, companies must run their donations through various Islamic councils — which, according to CSP, have more and more ties to radical and terrorist organizations the more one digs. The CS notes that Amana Funds, for instance, which is an investment outfit often cited by Muslims as a model, cites as one of its authorities the Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi — whose ties to terrorist groups are so well established that he has been banned from entering both the U.S. and the U.K. Qaradawi has written extensively in support, for example, of “martyrdom” operations against the U.S. and Israel.
Then there is the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions whose chairman is Mufti Taqi Usmani. CSP calls Usmani a “complete jihadist,” and backs it up with substantial citations.
Among the Shariah-compliant finance banks are Goldman Sachs, Citibank, Dow Jones and Morgan Stanley. Also Shariah-compliant is the now highly controversial AIG. If dollars are fungible — which they are — then American tax dollars are certainly going to support at least some charities that in turn support terrorists, including (almost certainly) Iran’s puppet, Hezbollah.
All of this gets very complicated, of course. And it must be said that there surely are plenty of Islamic charities that do wonderful work. But that doesn’t mean American tax money should be supporting Islamic charities effectively chosen by outfits whose own bona fides as purely peaceful councils are anything but certain.
Meanwhile, the Divest Terror movement — much like the popular lefty 1980s movement to divest from companies doing business in apartheid-marred South Africa — makes perfect sense, because it is relatively easy to tell whether a business does or does not do business in or with Iran and other state sponsors of terrorism. State ought to be eager to join the movement, and other big investors such as university endowments should be rushing to join the parade.
This is important stuff, and the two CSP projects obviously are attracting attention. Just yesterday, April 9, some unknown source in Pakistan hacked into the Shariah Finance Watch website and shut it down for hours, according to Holton. If the enemy feels so threatened by this group, Americans might want to thank it, or support it.
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