ISTANBUL – Iran’s president said Monday that capitalist excesses caused the global economic meltdown and are unIslamic, as leaders at a Muslim forum touted their religion’s banking system a way to revive battered economies.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was among heads of state in Istanbul for a one-day meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, a 57-state bloc of Muslim countries that promotes religious solidarity in economic and other matters.
In an address, Ahmadinejad slammed investments that pay interest, deemed usury by Muslims, and said they had contributed to financial and social problems such as homelessness.
“Usury, which is entrenched in the capitalist system, is perhaps the main reason why the system has gone bankrupt,” Ahmadinejad said. “It is a way of accumulating capital without working. Usury, according to the Qur’an, is fighting with Allah.”
Ahmadinejad did not mention Iran’s struggling economy, nor did he refer to its dispute with the West over its nuclear activities. Islamic banking is ethical and “mainly depends on sharing profits and sharing the losses, fighting usury and banking interest and trading in prohibited items,” he said. Barred items include alcohol, tobacco, pork, gambling or weapons.
President Kurmanbek Bakiyev of the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan said he intended to turn his country into “a regional center for the expansion of Islamic financing.” The roughly $1 trillion Islamic finance, with high annual growth over the past decade, has faced difficulties during the global financial crisis but was relatively insulated because of Islam’s ban on handling interest-bearing financial instruments.
The Islamic Development Bank, based in Saudi Arabia, comprises member countries of the Islamic Conference group and provides interest-free loans for infrastructure and other projects. Western institutions such as Britain’s HSBC also now offer products such as Shariah-compliant mortgages and bank accounts.
Developing countries have pointed to the origin of the global meltdown in the United States, where American consumers, the traditional pillar of the world economy, were hurt by the collapse of the housing bubble and the fallout from the credit crunch.
The Islamic forum held its meeting in a plush hotel on the banks of the Bosporus Strait that divides Istanbul between the Asian and European continents. Syrian President Bashar Al-Asad and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan attended the moot.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul, however, spoke on behalf of developing nations in the OIC.
“To ensure the efficient management of the global economy, developing countries must also keep the right to have a say commensurate with their growing economies,” said Turkish President Abdullah Gul. – AP