Archbishop of Canterbury calls for Christian/Muslim dialogue on interest and economic justice

Archbishop of Canterbury calls for Christian/Muslim dialogue on interest and economic justice

by Sheila Musaji

There have been a couple of important articles in the past week about this important call for a religious dialogue to help forge a religious response to the current global financial crisis. 

This is a topic that has been discussed on TAM for many years now.  For example, Kamran Mofid said in his article “Explaining the current financial crisis”:

“The focus of economics should be on the benefit and the bounty that the economy produces, on how to let this bounty increase, and how to share the benefits justly among the people for the common good, removing the evils that hinder this process. Moreover, economic investigation should be accompanied by research into subjects such as anthropology, philosophy, politics and most importantly, theology, to give insight into our own mystery, as no economic theory or no economist can say who we are, where have we come from or where we are going to. Humankind must be respected as the centre of creation and not relegated by more short term economic interests.”

And, Dr. Robert D. Crane has pointed out that:

“The only real solution to address all the financial problems that are now being compounded as one sector after another of the American and world economies unravels would be to change the entire institutionalized process of creating money and credit.  First, money should be issued only in return for real assets (the real bills doctrine) rather than being backed by debt, which has negative value. 

Secondly, money should be created through a two tier banking system by using Article 13 of the legislation that created the Federal Reserve System to provide pure credit, interest-free, to economic enterprises that vest the new money in ownership by the employees or otherwise are founded as Community Investment Corporations to be owned 100% by the individual residents of the community.  A second, interest-bearing tier would finance other wealth production, thus tipping the scale to broadening capital ownership rather than concentrating it as been the case in producing the enormous wealth gap within and among nations that contributes to the worldwide spread of terrorism.  This second tier on an interim basis could also finance consumption loans, but these are inherently inflationary and should be discouraged.  Such interest-burdened consumption credit would be less necessary as individual profits from broad-based capital ownership increase.

Such a thorough overhaul of the American financial system, as a model for the world, would require acceptance of the two main principles of Islamic finance, which have been undisputed for 1400 years.  The first principle of Islamic finance has been that money has no value in itself, because it is merely a medium of exchange to quantify the value of real wealth.  The second principle is that all wealth should be privately owned. “

I believe that greed and corruption have played a large part in the financial crisis and that we need to expand this discussion and hope that individual clerics and scholars will come forward from all religious communities and join in an effort to express the moral and ethical principles that might help to guide us out of this situation.

UK: Archbishop calls for financiers to set ‘just and reasonable’ interest rates

By Steve Doughty, The Daily Mail, October 15, 2008

The Archbishop of Canterbury made a new attack on the money markets today with a call for financiers to set ‘just and reasonable’ rates of interest.

Dr Rowan Williams said that Christians and Muslims - who forbid entirely the taking of interest - should speak as one about the world financial crisis.

Both religions, the Archbishop said, should work towards establishing a shared doctrine of what proper interest rates should be.

Dr Williams’ call for religious guidance to restrict the workings of the markets follows his attack last month on capitalism and his praise for Karl Marx, the founder of communism.

Both Dr Williams and his number two in the hierarchy of the Church of England, Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu, were severely critical of markets. Dr Williams said those who believed in the power of free markets were ‘fundamentalists’ and Dr Sentamu characterised City traders as ‘bank robbers’ and ‘asset strippers’.

The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke following a three-day conference of Christian and Muslim leaders including the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Sheik Ali Gomaa.

Dr Williams said: ‘In the present financial crisis both our religious traditions have ethical perspectives. We think we have things that we can say together about the search for economic justice.’ Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams (left) with Grand Mufti of Egypt Dr Ali Gomaa at Lambeth Palace in London today

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams (left) with Grand Mufti of Egypt Dr Ali Gomaa at Lambeth Palace in London today

The Archbishop added: ‘The Christian tradition has always been cautious about interest for many centuries. We were of one mind with the traditional Muslim approach until in the 16th century that changed.

‘Since then the question has been what are just rates of interest rather than absolute prohibition.’

He said: ‘I would like to see a dialogue developing with Islam about this question of what a just and reasonable rate of interest might look like.’

Asked about the cause of the financial crisis, Dr Williams joked: ‘I was going to suggest Satan.’

He added: ‘As religious leaders we would like to say that the root problem is human greed.’

Critics of the views of CofE leaders pointed out last month that the Church’s financial wing, the Church Commissioners, has been involved in short-selling and hedge fund trading in recent months.

Source:  Virtue Online The Voice for Global Orthodox Anglicanism


UK: Rowan Williams says “human greed” to blame for financial crisis
Archbishop of Canterbury calls for debate with Islam to establish “just” interest rates

by Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent, The Times Online, October 15, 2008

The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams today blamed “human greed” for the financial crisis.

He joined Muslim leaders from around the world in calling for world leaders to work together to prevent the burden of the financial crisis from falling on “the weak and the poor.”

Dr Williams joined the Grant Mufti of Egypt Dr Ali Gomaa at Lambeth Palace in London to launch the communique from a meeting earlier this week in Cambridge, described by participants as “the most significant gathering of international Muslim leaders ever to take place in the United Kingdom.”

A Common Word, a conference of Christian and Muslim scholars, aimed at promoting better understanding between the two faiths.

The scholars examined areas on which both faiths agree, such as the need to speak out against persecution of Christians in Iraq and other minorities around the world, including Iran.

They also looked at the credit crunch from the perspective of Islam, which prohibits charging interest on lent money, and Christianity, which has changed its teaching to allow interest but still teaches against financial exploitation of the weak and vulnerable.

Asked which nation or human characteristic was most responsible for the credit crunch, Dr Williams joked: “I was going to suggest Satan.” But he added: “Clearly as religious leaders we want to say that the root of it is human greed.”

Dr Williams said he would like to see a dialogue with Islam about what constituted a just and reasonable rate of interest. “The Christian tradition has always been cautious about interest.” For many centuries, it was at one with the traditional Muslim approach, he said.

This changed around the time of the 16th century he said. The question since then was to work out “just and proper” rates of interest, rather than go for absolute prohibition.

Dr Williams said: “I would like very much to see a dialogue developing with Islam about this question of what a just, a reasonable rate of interest might look like in the light of a religious ethic but this is a work very much in its infancy, to put it mildly,” he said.

Dr Williams’ comments come after he and the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, attacked bankers and traders responsible for the financial crisis.

Dr Williams called for fresh scrutiny and regulation of the financial world and Dr Sentamu branded the traders who cashed in on falling share prices in HBOS as “bank robbers” and “asset strippers”.

Islamic banks, which operate within the restrictions set by Sharia, have been little affected by the credit crunch, according to Muslims at the conference, timed to coincide with the first anniversary of the publication of A Common Word Between Us and You, a letter from 138 Islamic scholars, clerics and intellectuals.

Addressed to Pope Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders, the letter warned that the survival of the world could be at stake if Muslims and Christians did not make peace with each other.

In their communique, the scholars said: “Meeting at a time of great turbulence in the world financial system our hearts go out to the many people throughout the world whose lives and livelihood are affected by the current crisis.

“When a crisis of this magnitude occurs, we are all tempted to think solely of ourselves and our families and ignore the treatment of minorities and the less fortunate. In this conference we are celebrating the shared values of love of God and love of neighbour, the basis of A Common Word, whilst reflecting self-critically on how often we fall short of these standards.

“We believe that the divine commandment to love our neighbour should prompt all people to act with compassion towards others, to fulfil their duty of helping to alleviate misery and hardship. It is out of an understanding of shared values that we urge world leaders and our faithful everywhere to act together to ensure that the burden of this financial crisis, and also the global environmental crisis, does not fall unevenly on the weak and the poor.”

Source:  The Times Online


Questions and Answers in response to a lecture given by The Archbishop of Canterbury in Westminster Abbey during Holy Week 2008 - the second in a series entitled ‘A Question on Faith’

Islamic banking escapes economic crisis fallout

Islamic banking steady in shaky times

Economic Collapse?, Rabbi Michael Lerner

A series of articles published by Dr. Robert D. Crane on TAM discussing the possibility that Islamic Economics should be considered as part of a solution to our current situation:  “Economic Justice: What’s That?”,  “Economic Justice: A Cure for Terrorism”,  “Compassionate Justice:  The Third Factor of Production”,  “Real Solutions for a Sobering Time, The Promise of Islamic Economics”, “Islamic Economics: Failure to Share Both Risk and Ownership Caused the Sub-Prime Collapse”, “Islamic Economics: The Total Revolution”,  “Islamic Economics:  Cause or Cure for Global Terrrorism”, “Self-Determination:  The Fundamental Moral Principle of Islamic Economics”, “Are There Islamic Solutions for Economic Justice?”,