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Sounds Like Good Customer Service to Me:

A reader sent me an e-mail which seems to condemn this development as a sign of "dhimmitude":

Standard & Poor's said it will launch on Tuesday versions of its widely used global indexes such as the S&P 500 .SPX, in response to the burgeoning demand for financial products and services that comply with Islamic law, or shariah.

Shariah forbids Muslims from receiving interest payments and from investing in companies involved in the production or sale of pork, alcohol, tobacco, pornography, gambling and non-Islamically structured finance or life insurance....

In further developments, some people have actually launched restaurants that only serve shariah-compliant food! Not only that, but others have food that complies with Jewish law, and still others have food that complies with vegan ethical principles. How will the nation survive?

Seems to me that if customers want to buy certain products and not others -- because they're Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, vegan, and so on -- it's generally quite good for businesses to cater to those customers' preferences. If that means investing in companies that don't sell certain foods or certain financial instruments, or investing in companies that pollute less, or investing in companies that supposedly treat their works better, that seems just fine to me. We don't become "dhimmis" (non-Muslims governed by Muslim law) by doing what smart businesspeople routinely do: adjusting their products to the tastes of their customers.

KeithK (mail):
It will be a sign of "dhimmitude" if S&P stops offering financial products and services that don't comply with sharia law. Unless and until that happens this is just good business practice. No sense leaving money on the table.
2.5.2008 3:20pm
Guest Comment:
Cheep PR stunt. Just like that Kosher crap supermatkets sell. Non of that mass production ever seen a Jew, let alone a rabbi supervising production.
2.5.2008 3:20pm
Jagermeister:

non-Islamically structured finance
That would be fine as long as they are willing to accept the consequences of their choices - consignment to marginal status, like the Amish and Mennonites.

The problem is that sharia Muslims want to make choices that impede their ability to compete (both financially and socially, e.g. women can't work), but then complain about the West and ultimately resort to terrorism to assuage their wounded pride.

It's as if the Mennonites went on a rampage to blow up all the cars because they chose not to drive.
2.5.2008 3:26pm
Ben P (mail):

Cheep PR stunt. Just like that Kosher crap supermatkets sell. Non of that mass production ever seen a Jew, let alone a rabbi supervising production.


Not True (partially at least)

I personally know an individual retained by Tyson Foods as a consultant for that very reason.

Now, I have no idea as to the extent of his supervision, but they have paid him to certify certain products as meeting standards.
2.5.2008 3:30pm
Scote (mail):
This would all be fine if that is where it ended. However, many orthodox religious are never happy until other people abide by the same rules as their religion dictates. That, and while I can understand the need for, perhaps, mutual funds that are pork free but a pork-free index? That doesn't make sense to me because an index is supposed to relate to the economy, not to religious preference.

While I don't see a big issue with this special index at the moment, I do object to the efforts to make our society more sectarian, especially when religions try and export their arbitrary values on the public, such as certain religious cab drivers refusing to take people with alcohol in their luggage or blind people with guide dogs. I don't see this index as doing anything like that, and yet it is another way to fractionalize not just our society but even the financial markets into "Islamic" finance and non-Islamic finance which may, in the future, be just one more aspect of a divided society.
2.5.2008 3:33pm
Scote (mail):
This would all be fine if that is where it ended. However, many orthodox religious are never happy until other people abide by the same rules as their religion dictates. That, and while I can understand the need for, perhaps, mutual funds that are pork free but a pork-free index? That doesn't make sense to me because an index is supposed to relate to the economy, not to religious preference.

While I don't see a big issue with this special index at the moment, I do object to the efforts to make our society more sectarian, especially when religions try and export their arbitrary values on the public, such as certain religious cab drivers refusing to take people with alcohol in their luggage or blind people with guide dogs. I don't see this index as doing anything like that, and yet it is another way to fractionalize not just our society but even the financial markets into "Islamic" finance and non-Islamic finance which may, in the future, be just one more aspect of a divided society.
2.5.2008 3:33pm
Orielbean (mail):
Relax, the index is a simple tool for measurement. No need to get all uptight and conservative about it. Jeez. The other concerns make much more sense. Nobody is forcing this index on your portfolio.
2.5.2008 3:50pm
Brian K (mail):
I don't see a problem with this at all.

afterall, christian oriented funds have been around for years. here and here.
2.5.2008 3:50pm
Redman:
I don't think the Jews or the vegans have declared jihad on me.
2.5.2008 4:18pm
hawkins:

I don't think the Jews or the vegans have declared jihad on me.


Who exactly speaks for "the Muslims"?
2.5.2008 4:35pm
CJColucci:
This is not news. Financial institutions have offered sharia-compliant financial products for over a decade that I'm aware of. A few U.S. law firms even started practices in the area. And why not? There's money to be made.
My own venture in Islamic business didn't work out quite so well. Some years ago, I represented a Muslim cleric in a civil case. To my goyische perspective, it seemed to me that the kosher and halal rules sufficiently overlapped that foods could be jointly certified. I wanted to introduce him to my neighbor the rabbi and set them up in a business jointly certifying qualifying food as both kosher and halal. Nothing ever came of it.
2.5.2008 4:43pm
Sean O'Hara (mail) (www):

I don't think the Jews or the vegans have declared jihad on me.


You should watch the Penn &Teller Bulls**t episode about PETA.
2.5.2008 4:47pm
Houston Lawyer:
While I don't know the Muslim equivalent for Kosher, I wonder whether non-Muslims can participate in the preparation of products that must conform to Muslim standards. I believe that all of us non-Muslims are considered to be unclean. Is it permissable to employ only Muslims based upon this rationale? Stated otherwise, can being a Muslim be a BFOQ?

Can you use pig skin to make a suicide vest?
2.5.2008 4:48pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
HL: Muslims can eat animals slaughtered by People of the Book, which include Christians and Jews. OTOH, Jews aren't that flexible.

Muslims have kept a lot of the prohibitions of their predecessor religions. There was a time that Christians couldn't lend money at interest, either, because that was considered the sin of usury. This was fortunate for those who lived outside the feudal system, because lending money at interest was a way to make a living.
2.5.2008 5:04pm
Marklar (mail):

I wanted to introduce him to my neighbor the rabbi and set them up in a business jointly certifying qualifying food as both kosher and halal


As a Muslim, I was always taught that kosher was equivalent to halal. Indeed, my father who came to this country at a time when there was no halal, and eats ONLY halal meat, ate only kosher meat for about 40 years.
2.5.2008 5:11pm
Justin JJ (mail):
The problem with "Sharia compliant" finance products, as I've heard it, is that they're largely scams, using piety as a cover for inept or outright fraudulent money management. Most devout Muslims have no religious problems with normal investing; the distinction here is akin to tent revivalists decrying organized religion, and then selling snake oil cures.

Still, it's their money to waste as they will.
2.5.2008 5:39pm
yankev (mail):

To my goyische perspective, it seemed to me that the kosher and halal rules sufficiently overlapped that foods could be jointly certified. I wanted to introduce him to my neighbor the rabbi and set them up in a business jointly certifying qualifying food as both kosher and halal. Nothing ever came of it.
I'm pretty sure that the US Military produces MREs that are jointly certified as kosher and halal.

My secretary tells me that when she was in college some 10 years back, a number of Muslim students regularly ate at the campus Hillel because the kosher food met halal standards.
2.5.2008 6:13pm
Willard III:

"As a Muslim, I was always taught that kosher was equivalent to halal. Indeed, my father who came to this country at a time when there was no halal, and eats ONLY halal meat, ate only kosher meat for about 40 years."



No doubt, he will burn in Catholic hell forever (with holly Scalia looking from above).
2.5.2008 6:13pm
LM (mail):

We don't become "dhimmis" (non-Muslims governed by Muslim law) by doing what smart businesspeople routinely do: adjusting their products to the tastes of their customers.

Should be needless to say.
2.5.2008 7:05pm
Dick King:
There are two reasons why a halel index is a contribution to the world.

1: It is an interesting empirical question how much ROI a halel investor must sacrifice. A halel version of the S&P 500 would help us answer this question.

2: Moslems want to be able to put index mutual funds into their IRAs just like the rest of us, and can only do so if a benchmark portfolio exists and is maintained.

-dk
2.5.2008 7:49pm
Dick King:
There are two reasons why a halel index is a contribution to the world.

1: It is an interesting empirical question how much ROI a halel investor must sacrifice. A halel version of the S&P 500 would help us answer this question.

2: Moslems want to be able to put index mutual funds into their IRAs just like the rest of us, and can only do so if a benchmark portfolio exists and is maintained.

-dk
2.5.2008 7:49pm
VFBVFB (mail):
--- As a Muslim, I was always taught that kosher was equivalent to halal. ---

No orthodox Jew would consider halal meat kosher, because the rules to be kosher are more restrictive than the rules to be halal. On the other hand, some Muslims will eat kosher food, but many will not. For some Muslims, meat will only be halal if a religious muslim pronounces god's name at the time of slaughter of the animal. As such, they will not eat kosher.
2.5.2008 7:53pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Thre's a lot of money to be made by structuring financial products that pass Sharia inspection. Nobody has to do it, but if you don't somebody else will get the business.

Often an existing financial instrument can pass inspection by simply describing it differently. Interest may be forbidden, but a convenience fee for easy monthly payments isn't. Balloon payments may be forbidden, but financial service fees might deliver the same NPV. Many Muslims are looking for a way to invest, but want the cover of Sharia compliance. Sometimes the wordsmith is the most valuable member of the team.
2.5.2008 9:37pm
Fub:
Elliot123 wrote at 2.5.2008 9:37pm:
Often an existing financial instrument can pass inspection by simply describing it differently. Interest may be forbidden, but a convenience fee for easy monthly payments isn't. Balloon payments may be forbidden, but financial service fees might deliver the same NPV. Many Muslims are looking for a way to invest, but want the cover of Sharia compliance. Sometimes the wordsmith is the most valuable member of the team.
Would such a change as, say, "convenience fee" for interest have tax implications under present US Tax Code?

If interest is deductible (say for a primary residence), would a "convenience fee" be deductible under rules that would make the bottom line for income taxes the same in both cases?

What I don't know about taxation would fill more than the US Tax Code, but it seems to me that taxation calculations might become an issue if categories of income or expense moneys are changed.
2.5.2008 11:30pm
Toby:
I used to always order Muslim on airlines. I avoided rubber chicken, I got a meal that was more interesting. Seemed OK to an Irish Catholic.

Since 9/11, I have been not wanted to select myself for special screenings. Not that I know I would, it just seemed not worth experimenting...
2.6.2008 12:46am
Public_Defender (mail):

However, many orthodox religious are never happy until other people abide by the same rules as their religion dictates.


So what? Many requests for accommodation are reasonable. Grant those ones, deny the others. There will be a difficult gray area, but life is full of difficult gray areas.


Houston Lawyer asks: "Can you use pig skin to make a suicide vest?"


These threads tend to bring the bigots out from under their rocks.
2.6.2008 6:15am
Anon1ms (mail):
Scote: "This would all be fine if that is where it ended. However, many orthodox religious are never happy until other people abide by the same rules as their religion dictates."

The next thing you know, they will want to keep us from purchasing a beer before noon on Sundays.
2.6.2008 5:10pm
(Minor) participant in Iraq (mail):
I was talking to an Iraqi poultry farming expert once - we were talking about halal chicken and the means of ritual slaughter. I told him that I had seen frozen chicken labeled as halal from Brazil for sale in Iraqi markets.

He said that industrial poultry slaughter in Iraq was the same as in the USA - hanging the chicken upside down on a conveyor line which led the necks into a saw which decapitated them.

The halal part came from a tape which repeated the words Bismillah al Rahman al Raheem, (In the name of God, the most Gracious, the most Merciful), etc., over loudspeakers in the slaughterhouse.

So chicken is pretty much chicken.
2.6.2008 6:02pm