FaithWorld

Sharia scholars oppose more regulation on Islamic finance

At a time when many critics are calling for tighter regulation of the worldwide financial industry, Muslim scholars are saying that Islamic finance cannot be more tightly controlled for theological reasons. The Islamic finance industry has long been marked by divergent interpretations of Sharia, or Islamic law. (Photo: Traders at Saudi Investment Bank in Riyadh, 8 Oct 2008)

Now, amid calls for standardisation, the scholars say the Islamic concept of ijtihad — reasoning to reassess  sharia in light of modern developments– bars any tighter regulation or coordination of this $1 trillion industry.

It’s rare that religious scholars get to dictate terms to business, but this might be one because Islamic finance is expressly built upon the principle of sharia compliance.

Here’s a report from Frederik Richter, a correspondent in our Bahrain bureau:

Scholars reject strict Islamic finance standards

MANAMA, Nov 10 (Reuters) – Islamic scholars on Monday cautioned against enforcing legal standards in the Islamic finance industry, even though the lack of standardisation is widely seen as an impediment to growth.

Financial crisis hits German rabbinical college

Berlin’s new Synagogue, 10 Oct 2005/Amanda AndersenThe revival of Jewish life in post-unification Berlin could suffer a setback if the current financial crisis forces the closing of the first rabbinical college opened in central Europe since the Holocaust. As Berlin reporter Josie Cox writes, the Abraham Geiger College is falling short of funds because its donors in Europe and the United States are getting short of cash themselves. Read the full story here.

The college opened at the University of Potsdam in 1999 and graduated its first rabbis — a German, a Czech and a South African — in September 2006.

“We need many, many more rabbis in Germany. We have a great hunger for rabbis,” Dieter Graumann, vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said at the time.

Christian-Muslim statement on world financial crisis

Common Word conference at University of Cambridge, 11 Oct 2008/Sohail NakhoodaThe Common Word group of Muslim scholars met Christian leaders and theologians in Cambridge and London this week. Discussions in this interfaith dialogue have mostly been theological, based on the idea that the love of God and neighbour is a core dogma of both religions. In a statement on Wednesday, they included a paragraph about the world financial crisis. There have been lots of comments from various faith leaders about the crisis, but this is the first Christian-Muslim statement I’ve seen.

Here’s the paragraph:

We live in an increasingly global world that brings with it increased interdependence.  The closer we are drawn together by this globalisation and interdependence, the more urgent is the need to understand and respect one another in order to find a way out of our troubles.  Meeting at a time of great turbulence in the world financial system our hearts go out to the many people throughout the world whose lives and livelihood are affected by the current crisis.  When a crisis of this magnitude occurs, we are all tempted to think solely of ourselves and our families and ignore the treatment of minorities and the less fortunate.  In this conference we are celebrating the shared values of love of God and love of neighbour, the basis of A Common Word, whilst reflecting self-critically on how often we fall short of these standards.  We believe that the divine commandment to love our neighbour should prompt all people to act with compassion towards others, to fulfil their duty of helping to alleviate misery and hardship.  It is out of an understanding of shared values that we urge world leaders and our faithful everywhere to act together to ensure that the burden of this financial crisis, and also the global environmental crisis, does not fall unevenly on the weak and the poor.  We must seize the opportunity for implementing a more equitable global economic system that also respects our role as stewards of the earth’s resources.

Do you see any link between faith and the financial crisis? Could this crisis lead to tensions between people of different religions — or bring them closer together?

European Christian politicians respond to pope’s call

College des Bernardins, 1 Sept 2008/Charles PlatiauOne recurring theme in Pope Benedict’s speeches is the need he sees for Christians to speak out more in public on moral issues. A group of European politicians has taken up the challenge and held a brainstorming session in Paris to “find forms of political commitment that responds to their convictions and to the challenges of the 21st century,” as their hostess, French Housing and Urban Development Minister Christine Boutin, put it. The meeting was held at the Collège des Bernardins, the refurbished medieval college where Benedict spoke only last month about Europe’s Christian roots.

Although most politicians there could be described as Christian Democrats, there was no question about starting a specifically Christian political party. Instead, speakers stressed they wanted to bring Christian values back into the general political discourse after decades of being derided as old-fashioned. Several speakers from France mentioned the way secularists had sidelined them in politics. “We Christians have gotten used to living under a kind of house arrest,” said Jean-Pierre Rive, secretary general of the Church and Society Commission of the French Protestant Federation. “We have to get back into politics.”

The financial crisis, they said, provided a dramatic example of what can happen when greed and shady bank practices sideline values such as solidarity and concern for the poor. “A new world is being built and we Christians must play our part,” said Boutin, one of the most outspoken Catholic activists in French politics, at the Oct. 10 meeting. “Christians in France have lost the habit of communicating their experiences. There are politicians who are open to new ideas now. Let’s meet them and talk with them.”

Fed up with market crisis? Here’s one broker who left it all behind

Traders at New York Stock Exchange, 3 April 2008/Brendan McDermidFed up with this market crisis? Looking for a change? Take a look at how one former Nasdaq broker got away from it all:

Brother Nikanor, a Nasdaq broker turned monk, advises former colleagues to put a jar with soil on their desks to remind them where we are all heading and what matters in life.

As western banks fold into each other like crumpled tickets and commentators portray the current crisis as the last gasp of modern capitalism, Hristo Mishkov, 32, shares the pain — and offers home truths.