Islamic law provides financial cushion for some Muslim Americans

The Sacramento BeeMarch 30, 2009 

The recession gripping the nation has taken less of a toll on American Muslims who follow age-old Islamic laws against paying – or charging – interest.

They've also been shielded by socially responsible retirement plans because Shariah– Islamic law – forbids investments in banks and mortgages as well as tobacco, alcohol, gambling, pornography or weapons.

"If everybody was Shariah-compliant, there would be no recession," said Farouk Fakira, a Yemeni immigrant who moderated a discussion on Islamic finance at Sacramento's Masjid Annur last week.

Fakira, 57, rents a home – like hundreds of other local Muslims – because "interest is pretty much forbidden. If you're making money off of money, the only person who benefits is you."

Shariah – 1,400 years of Islamic legal knowledge based on the words of the Prophet Muhammad – guides Muslims in daily life, said Imam Muhammed Abdul Azeez of Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims, or SALAM.

Shariah prohibits usury, which often took advantage of a desperate person who needed to feed or protect his family, Azeez said. "There's an element of exploitation here."

The bottom line for many Muslims is, "if I don't have the money to buy something, that means I can't afford it," said Deya Dean Elghassein, who's Palestinian American.

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