Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Banking for Muslims only.. in violation of American law?

Debbie Schlussel has an excellent article on University Bank (of Ann Arbor, Michigan) and its new Islamic banking division.

To those unfamiliar with the area, Detroit and its environs is home to the largest Islamic community in the US, and University Bank has set up an Islamic banking division. The Qu'ran forbids the charging of interest. Muslims are forbidden by shariah (Islamic law) from paying interest on loans, or reciving interst on savings.

University Bank offers a mortgage alternative loan transaction program - or MALT - which replaces a traditional home loan with a redeemable lease.

The bank holds the home in trust, and a home buyer makes monthly payments to that trust. Each rent payment includes a set amount of savings, which builds the buyer's equity in the home. When the savings account equals the home's original purchase price, the buyer owns it. Actually, a profit for the bank is built in, so there IS in fact `interest' charged, unlike Islamic banking in Muslim countries.

The question remains as to whether non-Muslims have equal access to this program. As Ms. Schlussel points out, a great test would be for a non-Muslim to apply for this loan. If a non-Muslim is turned down for this loan on any sort of discriminatory ground, it's a violation of US banking laws as well as grounds for a civil suit.

It gets better.

The Bank's employees are all Muslims. Is there a reason no non-Muslims have been hired,especially in face-to-face lending positions? I have a feeling there is, and if so it's another violation of US law.

I wonder what would happen if a bank advertised itself as providing `Christian lending' and hired only Christians as employees?

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