Islamic Banking - Controversy

Controversy

In Islamabad, Pakistan, on June 16, 2004: Members of leading Islamist political party in Pakistan, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) party, staged a protest walkout from the National Assembly of Pakistan against what they termed derogatory remarks by a minority member on interest banking:

Taking part in the budget debate, M.P. Bhindara, a minority MNA ...referred to a decree by an Al-Azhar University's scholar that bank interest was not un-Islamic. He said without interest the country could not get foreign loans and could not achieve the desired progress. A pandemonium broke out in the house over his remarks as a number of MMA members...rose from their seats in protest and tried to respond to Mr Bhindara's observations. However, they were not allowed to speak on a point of order that led to their walkout.... Later, the opposition members were persuaded by a team of ministers...to return to the house...the government team accepted the right of the MMA to respond to the minority member's remarks.... Sahibzada Fazal Karim said the Council of Islamic ideology had decreed that interest in all its forms was haram in an Islamic society. Hence, he said, no member had the right to negate this settled issue.

Some Islamic banks charge for the time value of money, the common economic definition of interest (riba). These institutions are criticized in some quarters of the Muslim community for their lack of strict adherence to Sharia.

The concept of Ijarah is used by some Islamic Banks (the Islami Bank in Bangladesh, for example) to apply to the use of money instead of the more accepted application of supplying goods or services using money as a vehicle. A fixed fee is added to the amount of the loan that must be paid to the bank regardless if the loan generates a return on investment or not. The reasoning is that if the amount owed does not change over time, it is profit and not interest and therefore acceptable under Sharia.

Islamic banks are also criticized by some for not applying the principle of Mudarabah in an acceptable manner. Where Mudarabah stresses the sharing of risk, critics point out that these banks are eager to take part in profit-sharing but they have little tolerance for risk. To some in the Muslim community, these banks may be conforming to the strict legal interpretations of Sharia but avoid recognizing the intent that made the law necessary in the first place.

The majority of Islamic banking clients are found in the Gulf states and in developed countries. With 60% of Muslims living in poverty, Islamic banking is of little benefit to the general population. The majority of financial institutions that offer Islamic banking services are majority owned by Non-Muslims. With Muslims working within these organizations being employed in the marketing of these services and having little input into the actual day to day management, the veracity of these institutions and their services are viewed with suspicion. One Malaysian Bank offering Islamic based investment funds was found to have the majority of these funds invested in the gaming industry; the managers administering these funds were non Muslim. These types of stories contribute to the general impression within the Muslim populace that Islamic banking is simply another means for banks to increase profits through growth of deposits and that only the rich derive benefits from implementation of Islamic Banking principles.

Hence, the controversy that surrounds the so called, Islamic Banking, continues. The question of whether or not available Islamic banking really is Islamic is still a matter of debate among the Muslim academia.

Read more about this topic:  Islamic Banking

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