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Seattle officials join push for Sharia-compliant mortgages, loans


WASHINGTON –  A proposal in Seattle meant to increase homeownership among Muslims by offering financing compliant with strict Islamic law — known as Sharia — is gaining ground in the latest test for local leaders trying to accommodate diverse religious beliefs.

“We will work to develop new tools for Muslims who are prevented from using conventional mortgage products due to their religious beliefs,” Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said during a press conference July 13.

“Sharia,” which comes from the Koran and means “the right path,” prohibits the payment of interest — the primary way lenders earn. Many of Seattle’s 30,000 practicing Muslims, therefore, are hard-pressed to find Sharia-compliant financing options when buying homes, making large purchases or starting a business.

A Seattle housing committee suggested community and business leaders find a way to help them, a push the mayor endorsed. Seattle is just the latest to explore financing options for devout Muslims — following in the footsteps of Chicago as well as national financial firms and lenders like Bank of America. But the move to offer Sharia-compliant financial products has drawn fire. Critics have warned that it opens the nation’s financial system to Islamic radicals and terror groups, providing a mechanism for money laundering.

In 2008, conservative lawmakers in Congress went after American International Group for offering Sharia-compliant insurance programs.


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