Exclusive: Iran, Terrorism, Proliferation and Shariah-Compliant Finance

by CHRISTOPHER HOLTON January 9, 2009

In April of 2008, I attended Harvard Law School's celebration of "Islamic Finance." This event has been labeled by others as "shilling for Shariah" at Harvard and, I must say, that is exactly what it was. During the two days of presentations, there was absolutely no critical thought expressed on the wider issue of Shariah. No one at this event expressed any concern that there might be some problems associated with introducing Shariah into the West or that there might be a possible connection between Shariah and Jihad. 

I found this very curious, given the handout that was distributed to conference attendees: Top 500 Islamic Financial Institutions.
 
On its face, nothing about this publication seemed spectacular. It was a supplement to the November 2007 issue of The Banker, a British financial magazine. It is common knowledge that Shariah-Compliant Finance has a firm foothold in the UK.
 
But I was truly shocked when I started thumbing through the piece and came to a feature article on page 22. The headline for the article was Iran dominates in the world of sharia compliance.
 
In the entire two-day Harvard Law School conference, no one uttered the word "Iran." Yet the feature article in the conference handout celebrated the fact that Iran was atop the world of Shariah-Compliant Finance – the same Iran which is the world's foremost sponsor of Jihadist terrorism, a serial nuclear proliferator, has threatened other countries with genocide and armed insurgents in Iraq with advanced weaponry with which they killed American GIs.
 
THIS is the country that "dominates" the world of Shariah-Compliant finance.
 
The revelation about Iran's prominent role in Shariah-Compliant Finance should be especially significant given the fact that the promoters of Shariah-Compliant Finance like to tout it as a form of ethical investing, want to market it cloaked as such to non-Muslims and claim that Shariah Compliance prohibits investments in "weaponry" as the Washington Post put it in an article back in October.
 
This is where things really get disturbing.
 
Also listed in The Banker supplement were the top 500 Islamic financial institutions. Numbers 1, 2, 5, 8, and 11 are all Iranian firms – and all are state-owned.
 
Number 1 in the world, the top Islamic financial institution in the world is none other than Bank Melli of Iran.
 
There is a lot that you should know about Bank Melli – and a lot that the folks at Harvard Law School back in April were choosing to ignore.
 
In October of 2007, the U.S. government imposed sweeping sanctions specifically targeting Bank Melli, citing Melli's financing of the Iranian nuclear and ballistic missile programs, as well as facilitating $100 million of payments from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force to the terrorist organizations HAMAS and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
 
Ethical investing? I guess it all depends on your definition of "ethical." Or maybe it simply depends on whose side you are on...
 
But the story of Shariah-Compliant Bank Melli does not end there, far from it.
 
In June of 2008, the European Union, not exactly a hawkish anti-Iranian bloc, also imposed sanctions on Bank Melli due to its involvement in financing aspects of Iran's nuclear program. Australia followed suit by imposing sanctions specifically aimed at Bank Melli in October 2008, just a few months ago.
 
So, the world's top Shariah-Compliant financial institution is under sanctions by dozens of countries around the globe, including the U.S., for its ties to terrorism and nuclear proliferation. 
 
If a bank like this can be considered A-OK by Shariah authorities, exactly what kind of standards are they using? Unfortunately, they are just going by the book. Literally.
 
To round things out, you may have recalled that Bank Melli appeared in the U.S. news media again back in mid-December. It seems Shariah-Compliant Bank Melli had formed a front company in New York City called ASSA Corp. to funnel funds from U.S. activities, especially Manhattan real estate, to Iran. You can find complete details of this scheme here.
 
Despite all of this, the promoters of Shariah-Compliant Finance in the West continue their celebration of Bank Melli.
 
The bank itself touts its international ranking as the world's top Shariah-Compliant institution on its own web site.
 
Meanwhile, in November of 2008, The Banker published new rankings and Iran is still "dominating" the world of Shariah-Compliant Finance, with more than double the assets of any other nation. And, once again, led by terrorist-financing and nuclear proliferating Bank Melli, six of the top ten Shariah-Compliant financial institutions are Iranian.
 
So the next time you read an article or report extolling the ethical and wondrous virtues of Shariah-Compliant Finance, remember Number 1, Iran's Bank Melli.
 
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Christopher Holton is a Vice President with the Center for Security Policy. He can be reached at Holton@centerforsecuritypolicy.org. The information contained this article was derived from Sharia Law and Financial Jihad: How Should America Respond?, a special report co-sponsored by the Center for Security Policy and the McCormick Foundation.

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