Banking Options in the American-Muslim Community

March 17, 1999

Source: Los Angeles Times

On March 17, 1999, the Los Angeles Times published an article on the organizations in the United States that are trying to offer American Muslims a way to conduct their financial affairs in accordance with Islamic law. Since the Qur'an and the Sunnah forbid Muslims to pay or receive interest, many devout Muslims are at odds with contemporary financial mores. Though Islamic banking systems now operate throughout the Muslim world, they withered under colonial rule and have only made a comeback in the last 20 years. Institutions like American Finance House and MSI Financial Services are two of only a dozen companies to offer Islamic banking in the United States. They run like limited partnerships where "depositors" are really "shareholders who earn dividends when the bank turns a profit, or who lose a portion of their savings if it posts a loss." Their loan operations function like Western-style leasing and rent-to-own transactions. Investing in the stock market is allowed, but no stocks may be held in companies that engage in activities relating to liquor, gambling, pork consumption, or pornography. Presently, the United Bank of Kuwait is trying to enter into the American market to offer widescale Islamic financial services.