Suddenly, a new national debate is beginning about the national security, economic and other implications of Persian Gulf potentates using their petrodollars to buy up strategic American assets. Most recently, the Emir of Dubai’s purchase at fire-sale prices of 4.9 percent of the largest U.S. bank, Citigroup, has caused a level of unease not seen since he tried to buy his way into a large number of this country’s port facilities.
Almost completely unremarked thus far has been a parallel – and in many ways far more insidious – effort to penetrate, influence and dominate America’s capital markets: so-called “Shariah finance.” Some estimates suggest that there are approaching $1 trillion now being invested around the world under this rubric. If present trends continue, all other things being equal, such funds may grow to many times that amount within a few years.
Shariah is, of course, the term used by adherents to the totalitarian ideology practiced by the Saudi Wahhabis, the Iranian mullahs and the Taliban to describe the all-encompassing theocratic code they use to justify repressive rule at home and to extend their dominance elsewhere. While it is often depicted by its promoters as Koranic in character, in fact, it is largely man-made, the product of dictates and rulings by caliphs and scholars over many centuries.
For non-Muslims, Shariah is best known for its sanction for the brutalization of women, homosexuals and Jews. Beheadings, amputations, flagellation and stoning are among the prescribed punishments for those who transgress this barbaric code, punishments plucked from primitive tribal practices in the Arabian deserts dating back to medieval times.
As a recent, excellent paper by my colleague at the Center for Security Policy, Alex Alexiev, points out, however, Shariah finance is a relatively contemporary innovation. It was not until mid-20th Century that Islamofascist ideologues like Abul ala Mawdudi and Sayyid Qutb introduced the notion that faithful Muslims must invest their wealth only in vehicles that comply with Shariah’s putative prohibition on interest. In the decades that followed, relatively few in the Muslim world followed this admonition as most Muslims regarded with appropriate skepticism financial schemes that generally were not reliable investments, especially those that went to almost-farcical lengths to conjure up returns without acknowledging they amounted to interest payments.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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