2 – It is for Muslims Only
This is another big misconception, but one that is far easier to address than most, seeing as conventional banking groups such as Citigroup, HSBC and Standard Chartered, among others, are already offering Islamic financial services. This is proof that no prohibition exists in terms of the use of Islamic financial products by non-Muslims, nor are there laws stating that non-Muslims may not own institutions offering such products and services.
As for the prohibition against usury, that is, investments in unethical or immoral sectors such as alcohol, gambling and pornography, it should be noted that other major world religions including Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism also impose this restriction. Many non-Muslims abstain from investing in such businesses as well, whether as a matter of religious, cultural or personal principle.
Islamic finance shouldn’t be seen as divisive, but instead as an alternative for conducting financial transactions according to a set of defined ethical values and parameters that differ from the commonplace. More importantly, it should make commercial sense, or it would be unlikely that any individual, Muslim or non-Muslim, would willingly engage in it. It’s interesting to note that the first ever company to issue a Sukuk (Islamic Debt Security) was Shell MDS (in Malaysia or in the world?), a multinational company. Many other multinationals, including giants such as Nestle and GE, have followed suit.
As proof of its universal viability, Islamic finance has also been in the Vatican’s official newspaper, Osservatore Romano, which stated that “The ethical principles on which Islamic finance is based may bring banks closer to their clients and to the true spirit which should mark every financial service.”