I have been dragging my feet in this issue. I don't want to be a cultural imperialist, trying to impose my own cultural preferences on companies doing business abroad (HSBC, Citigroup, and Deutsche Bank are developing Islamic banking sectors to cater to the demand). Neither do I want to give outside forces de facto permission to change Canada into their version of we should be.
Shariah Law gets bad press. But is that reason to boycott banks who open Shariah-compliant branches abroad? We Canadians might strongly disagree with the treatment of women in some Middle-Eastern countries, and we might recoil from the more extreme punishments provided by Shariah Law (the media love to focus on the floggings, amputations, etc; yet while these punishments remain on the books in some countries, lesser penalties are often considered sufficient). Further, we might even agree that what goes on in those countries is none of our business. And so, why would we boycott a bank that caters to Shariah adherents in countries far away from Canada?
Because – the argument goes -- there is a real possibility that Shariah Law will seek to impose itself in Canada, and supporting Shariah Law even indirectly (through doing business with a bank that serves Shariah customers abroad) will support this incursion. One major Shariah goal is to convert infidels through Jihad. To the extremists that means, guns, war. Doing business with them, or with banks that do, is indirectly supporting Jihad. At least that's the argument. Let's see if it holds water.
Businesses that serve Shariah customers are required to contribute a certain sum (I recall 2.5% of net profits) to Shariah institutions. It is alleged –this is a possibility, though not a certainty – that some of this money gets into the hands of extremists. There is no organized program to prevent this by companies doing Shariah business.
Is this wise cautiousness or paranoia? I don't know yet, but we cannot afford to be complacent.
I don't want to overstate the case. There are many versions of Shariah Law, not a single unified code, and there are no doubt many moderate Shariah adherents. But it's the extremists that tend to rule the day, and who will try to impose their practices on Canadians. So it is the extremists we need to guard against, and not the moderates.
Islamist activists have been demanding footbaths in public institutions; prayer rooms and time off for prayers in both public and private sector establishments; latitude for cab drivers and cashiers to decline to do business with certain customers or handle certain products; an Islamist public school in Brooklyn; Shariah-compliant schools in the UK; separate Shariah courts in Canada for all matters within the Muslim community; Shariah tolerance for honour killings of women attempted in Germany; and destruction of non Shariah-compliant businesses in dedicated “Muslim enclaves” in France.
I haven't directly confirmed all these allegations, but I have read enough about this type of incursion into a host country to be seriously concerned about Canada. After all, Canada seems to lack the backbone of Australia, which says openly to immigrants, “you are welcome to embrace the qualities that attracted you here in the first place, but if you seek to change them, please exercise your equal freedom to leave our country.”
And so I come to the end my take on a very complicated discussion. I defer to those who know much more about the issue, but I suggest that we owe it to ourselves to think about this carefully before blithely opening an account at a bank, or doing business with any institution, that supports Shariah Law. At least ask them what they are doing to make sure they are not inadvertently supporting extremism, or reverse cultural imperialism. After all, it is the Canada that exists today that attracted us all, not the Canada envisioned by extremists of any type, including Shariah extremists.
Now watch my ratings plunge