Perception of Islamic finance in the media

Despite the Islamophobic climate in today’s western media and abundance of arrogant bias towards anything Islamic, we read mostly “positive” remarks about Islamic finance in the same mediums.

Islamic finance is a contemporary term and is a bit problematic. Islam encompasses every ground in life, therefore it also has something to say about how we govern our money, how we (should) trade and how we treat our financial system. Islamic fiqh has myriad number of issues and fatwas regarding financial matters. In an ideal Islamic state, there would be no need for a term like “Islamic finance” since all branches and institutions should be in accord with Islamic law in the first place.

What is Islamic finance? The very basic definition for today’s reader would be exclusion of “interest rate” in the banking system. Some other definitions would read as exclusion of usury, instead of “interest rate”.

This definition is naturally short-sighted since Islam’s permissible financial gain is only “lawful and just”. So, when we say “Islamic finance is a kind of financial system that operates differently than today’s banking system”, the descriptive essence of “lawful and just financial gain” is overshadowed.

First, let’s see how Holy Quran mentions usury and those who practice it:

Those who devour usury will not stand except as stand one whom the Evil one by his touch Hath driven to madness. That is because they say: “Trade is like usury,” but Allah hath permitted trade and forbidden usury. Those who after receiving direction from their Lord, desist, shall be pardoned for the past; their case is for Allah (to judge); but those who repeat (The offence) are companions of the Fire: They will abide therein (for ever). (Al-Baqara 2-275)

Unfortunately, almost all banking systems in today’s world are established on financial principles related with usury but they will not use the term usury. Instead, we’re exposed intricate and elaborate banking terms which sound magical. This is to hide the very basic fact Holy Quran warns us “Trade is not like usury” so any kind of defense mechanism to rationalize usury and other forms of unlawful financial gain by saying “trade is like usury” is useless and baseless.

However, that’s how banking system works, by playing unethically people’s perception of contemporary financial system. Any system that is suggested as an alternative to today’s banking system is automatically labeled as unrealistic and impractical.

Exposing firm ties between today’s banking system and media systems is beyond the scope of this article, however it not rocket science to see that designers of today’s banking system successfully uses media to eradicate any kind of image in people’s mind that is a threat to their “unlawful gain”.

Strangely enough, especially in western media we always observe “positive remarks” about Islamic finance.

Because Muslims are becoming more aware of pitfalls and tyranny of capitalist system and want to follow their own financial system, “established” banking system don’t want to miss and scare away these “new customers”.

Since there is a financial gain in the end, therefore, anything related Islamic finance portrayed positively in the western medias.

If it is about building a new mosque or “allowance of hicab in the work-place” than it is all about how “creeping sharia is coming through” but if a gigantic bank is going to work with enormous capital emerging from a Muslim country through their own banking system, then Islamic finance is welcome and they’d do their best to bend their own ethics and rules.

Shortly, today’s Muslims should pay extra attention to the portrayal of Islamic finance in the western media and should purse to increase their knowledge in the field.

It looks like establishment media and their brother establishment banking system will do their best to “utilize” Islamic finance to their gain.

Baris Tarimcioglu/




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