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|Rachel Ehrenfeld||January 12th 2013|
Economic Warfare Institute
Under Obama’s administration, the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, bears little resemblance to the international aid agency that President John F. Kennedy initiated on Nov. 3, 1961. USAID’s stated goal was to further “America’s foreign policy interests in expanding democracy and free markets while also extending a helping hand to people struggling to make a better life, recover from a disaster or striving to live in a free and democratic country.”
However, upon issuing the first USAID loan guarantee of $1.15 million to an Islamic bank in Indonesia in August 2011, the agency’s blog justified the move, stating: “The finance guarantee agreement builds on President Obama’s speech in Cairo, which called for deeper engagement with the Muslim world.”
The development of Islamic banking was made possible by Malaysia. A recent Economist article, “Banking on the ummah,” reviewed the country’s Islamic banking industry and pointed out the lack of standardized regulations and transparency. But the piece ignored the country’s role in implementing the Muslim Brotherhood’s larger agenda to create a “parallel economy“ by first infiltrating and co-opting the Western economy.
Islamic banking is a concept that was slow to catch on until 1993, when Anwar Ibrahim – then Malaysia’s finance minister – helped to introduce newly invented ”Islamic banking windows” into conventional banks. This measure, which familiarized the clientele with and built confidence in the unknown Islamic banking system, proved central to the development of the global Islamic finance industry.
The establishment of an independent “Islamic economy” is an important factor in the Muslim Brotherhood agenda. Consequently, the development of Islamic banks is viewed as critical to facilitating the establishment of a global Islamic umma, or state.
Islamic banking was introduced in Malaysia in 1963 with the establishment of the Tabung Haji (Pilgrim’s Fund), a savings institution created to help Muslims save toward their pilgrimage to Mecca. But the Islamization of Malaysia began in earnest in 1981, when Mahathir bin Mohamad became prime minister. He immediately established the Islamic Consultative Body to oversee the implementation of national development programs according to Islamic values.
Mohamad’s ambition to turn Malaysia into a “model Muslim nation” seemed to convince Anwar, then president of the Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement, to join the government. Soon he became a major proponent of the Islamic Banking Act and the establishment of Bank Islam Malaysia Berhad in 1983. But the Malaysians were slow to trust a newly invented banking system.
To remedy the situation, Anwar’s finance ministry issued regulations facilitating the establishment of “Islamic banking windows” in the conventional Western banks that operated in Malaysia in 1993. Making Islamic banking familiar helped win the public’s trust and paved the way to independent Islamic banks in Malaysia and elsewhere.
The artful Muslim Brother Anwar often sprinkles his presentations with Arabic phrases from the Quran and other Islamic books while touting the socio-political aspects of Shariah banking. He claims that Islamic banking and economics, based on “maqasid al-shariah,” i.e., “the objectives of Islamic law,” could help create wealth and eradicate poverty.
Anwar’s talks of eradicating poverty and spreading justice and democracy seem to have confused his Western supporters, who clearly ignored his commitment, as a Muslim Brother, to replace Western political, social and economic principles with Islamic law.
Incredibly, throughout his political career, Anwar has openly rejected Western values while promoting Islam. In his 1983 speech, “Development and changing political ideas,” at the 50th anniversary conference of the Australian Institute of International Affairs, Anwar criticized the “wholesale imitation of Western values and practices” in Malaysia. These should be replaced, he argued, with Islam, which “provides an ideological alternative to the dominant paradigm.”
Speaking at Australian National University on Nov. 15, 2010, Anwar declared: “Democracy … is presumed [in part] to be defined by the conditions of the free market. And this is where the founding fathers of the French Revolution with their clarion call for liberty, equality, and fraternity missed the mark. … [T]his is because a free market is based on competition, and competition, being a zero-sum game, has no truck with equality. On the contrary, free markets engender inequality. … Islam enjoins that while society may pursue commerce to the fullest, justice and fairness must remain the chief criterion … in order to establish a humane economy.” Anwar posted this speech, along with most of his others, on his website.
Anwar’s advocacy of “Islamic democracy” and Islamic banking as “ethical banking” ostensibly means to fight for social justice and freedom of religion. This made him popular with Westerners, ignorant of Muslim Brotherhood duplicity, who desperately seek moderate Muslim leaders.
Even a cursory review of Anwar’s speeches on democracy and Islamic finance over decades shows Anwar is as a committed Islamist, as is one of his favorite authors, Sayyid Qutb, whose writing inspired al-Qaida and other radical Islamic groups.
In 1999, in prison on previous charges of corruption and sodomy, Ibrahim wrote to Abdul Hamid Abu Sulaiman, former rector of International Islamic University of Malaysia and a fellow director of the Virginia-based Muslim Brotherhood’s International Institute of Islamic Thought: ”I’m trying to keep myself busy – with prayers and … reading. … My old copy of Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s translation of the Quran is most valuable because of my earlier short notes and references from Ibn Kathir, al-Qurtubi, Sayyid Qutb and Maulana Maududi’s tafsirs (interpretations).”
Yet, Anwar is the darling “moderate Muslim” to his many admirers in the U.S. and the West.
Indeed, the list of prominent U.S. admirers of Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia’s former deputy prime minister, is impressive. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton intervened on his behalf during her visit to Malaysia in November 2010 when he was tried on charges of sodomy and corruption. Letters of support from former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and former World Bank President James Wolfensohn among others praised his leadership and fight “for international justice, peace and development.”
Strangely, these prominent figures fail to notice Anwar’s deception. His fight – like President Mohamed Morsi’s in Egypt – is not for democracy, justice and peace according to Western principles. Instead, his call is for democratization ”on the platform of Islam” and for replacing the competitive Western principles with a more “just” Islamic system.
With so much readily available information on Anwar’s advocacy of Islamic supremacy and his ties to sponsors of violence against the West, it is disconcerting that his Western supporters consider Anwar a hero and Islamic banking a solution to Western economic mishaps. Like Hillary Clinton, they laude Malaysia’s “creative approach” to Islamic banking.
Clinton’s enthusiasm for Islamic banking is not surprising, considering USAID’s support of Shariah-compliant financing institutions instead of developing conventional banking services. In January 2010, together with the World Council of Credit Unions, it established “a network of credit unions, known as Islamic Investment and Finance Cooperatives, whose management and products are Shariah compliant.
In June 2011, USAID organized online discussion on Islamic banking with 61 participants from 25 countries. The topics included the fundamentals of Shariah financing and the development of a new business model to address the needs of Islamic finance (different than conventional banking). In addition to Indonesia, USAID provided grants to develop Shariah finance institutions in Shariah-ruled Afghanistan, Kenya and elsewhere.
In the meantime, facing criticism for lack standard regulations, Malaysia and Dubai announced new regulatory regime that would help to “strengthen a ‘parallel economy’ – free from conventional and interest-based financial practices.”
Assisting to develop Islamic regimes – which by definition are anti-democratic and anti-capitalist – is not in the U.S. foreign or domestic interest.
Adhering to the Obama doctrine of “deeper engagement with Islam,” USAID is likely to increase its support – your tax money – to Shariah-based economies that are strapped for cash, such as Afghanistan, Egypt and Libya.
Rachel Ehrenfeld, director of the Economic Warfare Institute (EWI), is author of "Funding Evil- How Terrorism is financed – and How to Stop It."