SEATTLE, Wash. (Christian Examiner) – In an effort to increase homeownership among its Muslim population, Seattle has become the site of a debate about religious freedom and terrorism.
City officials are considering a proposal to offer loans in compliance with Sharia (also spelled Shariah or Shari'ah), a strict Islamic law that forbids Muslims to pay interest and thus take out traditional loans.
"We will work to develop new tools for Muslims who are prevented from using conventional mortgage products due to their religious beliefs," Seattle Mayor Ed Murray told Fox News.
This included the creation of a committee to investigate how its 30,000 Muslims could be offered interest-free loans. Non-Islamic banks, said the committee, should offer Sharia-compliant loans.
Objectors to this proposal fear that Sharia compliance would provide a mechanism for money laundering as well as force the state to pay zakat, an obligatory religious tax that is designated in part to support jihadists and Islamic warriors.
Supporters of the Seattle housing committee cite religious liberty and economics as reasons to condone this proposal.
The Council on Foreign Relations reported in 2014: "Global Islamic financial assets have soared from less than $600 billion in 2007 to more than $1.3 trillion in 2012, an expansion rooted in the growing pool of financial assets in Muslim-majority countries driven by consumer demand for products that comply with religious codes."
However, despite the fast-growing global Islamic financial market, "only a few billion dollars of Islamic home financing are provided each year [in the United States], a tiny fraction of the multitrillion-dollar conventional mortgage industry."
Those who oppose the measure say that making exceptions to benefit a single party is reverse discrimination.
Some private lenders already offer Sharia financing. Seattle-based Halal Inc., as well as other similar Islamic banking institutions, offer not interest but murabaha, an agreement in which the lender and the borrower agree on a sum equaling the cost plus mark-up or profit in order to avoid riba, or usury.
Though the point of religious law is under dispute, Islamic banks and corporations, in addition to individuals, are generally obliged to pay zakat. If conventional lenders and financial institutions were compliant with Sharia law, they too might be required to support jihadists.
"Shariah-compliant mortgages, and all aspects of so-called Shariah-compliant finance, should be rejected because they are vehicles for the promulgation of Islamic law, an integrated religio-political system antithetical to our most fundamental Western freedoms," Andrew Bostom, author of books on Islamic history, told World News Daily.
Sharia law also condones numerous practices illegal in the United States, including violence towards women, perjury, discrimination, polygamy, and religious war.
The Counter Jihad Report stringently warns against altering laws to favor Sharia: "When someone on Wall Street or Fleet Street claims that no proceeds from their Shariah-compliant institutions, products, transactions or instruments could possibly be used for a nefarious purpose, they have no basis for these hollow assurances, simply because they have no authority or control over the ultimate distribution of zakat funds."