Hey Tim Pawlenty, what’s so wrong with culturally-sensitive finance?

The American Prospect credited Tim Pawlenty with encouraging the expansion of Shariah-compliant finance in the name of increasing minority home ownership in Minnesota.

In 2004, Pawlenty encouraged the Minnesota Housing Financing Agency to partner with special-interest groups and businesses to up the state’s minority homeownership rate of 42%; this initiative became known as the  Emerging Markets Homeowners Initiative, through which the MHFA partnered with the African Development Center to develop Shariah-compliant loan and mortgage products. This aligns neatly with Pawlenty’s populist ideals.

Shariah-compliant finance is not a manifestation of jihad, as many states considering anti-Shariah legislation fear. It’s capitalism–Citigroup, Visa, and AIG have all explored it.

Pawlenty’s detractors are, predictably, linking Shariah-compliant finance to the Muslim Brotherhood and a desire to take over the United States and institute Shariah law.

Looking at the housing market, discouraging the purchase of property is ill-advised.

This is patently Islamophobic alarmism; the Detroit metropolitan boasts a high concentration of the Arab-American population and Shariah law is not a legislative concern there. The crux of Shariah-compliant finance is quite obviously usury, not “converting infidels.”

The Qu’ran contains more than a few invectives against usury, as does the Bible, making Shariah-compliant finance quite similar to what Bible-based finance would look like.

Although the modern interpretation of usury tends to be something along the lines of “unreasonable interest”, Shariah-compliant finance is not an unusual request–and a more narrow interpretation of usury should also be respected. Eliminating this option is an unnecessary burden on free exercise.

Looks like Pawlenty has a case of plank-eye.

In light of the article, however, Pawlenty is engaging in political pandering and backing down. His spokesperson, Alex Conant, says Pawlenty was not involved and even canceled the program.

What’s so funny about peace, love, understanding…that some of your constituents believe it is against their religion to pay interest?


The American Prospect leads with this, to show why Shariah-compliant finance is important:

Abid Lakhani wanted to buy a home.

“The house I was living in, I was living in it for 22 years because I don’t believe in getting interest-bearing loans,” the 44-year-old insurance salesman and father of four explains. But after years of renting, he was finally able to acquire a home for himself and his family this month through University Islamic Financial, Corp., which structures house payments so as to avoid charging interest. “For a Muslim living in this day and age, it’s difficult to practice and stay within the rules of the faith,” Lakhani says. “These kinds of options weren’t available before.”

From the aforementioned CBS article:

Conant, his spokesman, told Ben Smith that the former governor does not believe Sharia or any other religious law should hold sway in America.”The United States should be governed by the U.S. Constitution, not religious laws,” he said.*

So no more governing by religious laws? The Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses have influenced legislation and court precedent.  Also, what about Catholic and Evangelical religious  influence on abortion and gay marriage legislation?

This blog goes farther than casting money-changers out of the temple and uses the phrase “major hellfire” in regards to the practice of usury.

Does a Year of Jubilee sound good to anyone else? I’m in; just let me know when–wouldn’t want to rip up my student loan invoices too early.


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