The question on Wall Street in the wake of the latest meltdowns in the U.S. financial sector is “Who’s next?” The more important issue is not which of the major banks or investment firms will follow Lehman Brothers into bankruptcy or Merrill Lynch into fire sale. Rather, the question should be “What’s next?”
After all, the problem afflicting so much of the U.S. capital markets - and, therefore, those around the world - is not one of individual corporations hitting a rough patch and requiring bail-outs from the federal government or the private sector. It is, instead, the result of a reckless disregard for sound investing practices in the unscrupulous pursuit of profit. In a word, the last “what” was “subprime.”
As we all know by now, the practice of building financial houses of cards on various investment instruments based in nontransparent and problematic subprime mortgage-backed securities was a formula for disaster. It induced firms that not only should have known better but are required to behave better to perform unconscionably. In the process, they violated industry standards and government regulations with respect to transparency, disclosure, due diligence, good governance and accountability.
Tragically, in the process of leaping out of the scalding subprime frying pan, Wall Street is heading directly into a fire that promises, if anything, to be more devastating than the present disaster. Incredibly, it bears all the hallmarks of subprime with respect to a lack of transparency, a systematic failure to disclose and an utter absence of due diligence, good governance and accountability. The next “what” is called Shariah-Compliant Finance (SCF).
Shariah, of course, is the term the Islamists use to describe the ruthlessly repressive, totalitarian program they believe should govern every aspect of the lives of faithful Muslims. It is also the instrument they intend to use to rule the world. The first clue that something is wrong with Wall Street’s next big thing is that it is Shariah-compliant.
The next clue is how Shariah-Compliant Finance works. Like subprime, it is a black box, in which management and investors alike are told to trust in the experts. In this case, the experts are Shariah authorities who are accorded exclusive responsibility for determining whether investments are “pure” (halal) and therefore acceptable, or “impure” (haram) and not.
As an important monograph on the subject recently issued by the McCormick Foundation and the Center for Security Policy (for copies contact the Center at www.SecureFreedom.org) makes clear, these authorities are, unsurprisingly, adherents to Shariah. A number of them explicitly embrace its call to jihad (including a former senior member of the Dow Jones Islamic Index, Sheik Taqi Usmani). This “holy war” is to be waged where possible through violent means, where necessary through “soft” means like Shariah-Compliant Finance. For this reason, such Islamists call SCF “financial jihad.”
Earlier this year, David Yerushalmi, a litigator specializing in securities law and an expert on Shariah, produced a riveting legal memorandum (soon to appear in the University of Utah Law Review) examining the civil and criminal exposure inherent in Shariah-Compliant Finance (https://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/Modules/NewsManager/Center%20publication%20PDFs/Shairias%20Black%20Box%20(D%20Yerushalmi).pdf). His conclusion: banks and investment houses offering SCF products may be enabling or engaging in the following: racketeering, antitrust activity, securities fraud, consumer fraud and/or material support for terror.
What makes Shariah-Compliant Finance even more dangerous than subprime is that, in its effort to legitimize and institutionalize Shariah in America, it is advancing a criminal conspiracy whose purpose is the violent overthrow of the United States Constitution and government in favor of Islamic rule. That would make it sedition.
For these reasons, we should be especially wary of the purported silver lining to the current Wall Street crisis: the infusion of vast quantities of petrodollars, primarily from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ Saudi Arabia and other Islamist nations in the Persian Gulf. It is bad enough that these putative rescuers of our subprime-fueled liquidity debacle are buying up engines of our capital markets for pennies on the dollar. Worse yet, they are, in the process, putting themselves in a position to promote Shariah-Compliant Finance and the seditious theo-political agenda it serves.
A forthcoming book about SCF by Center for Security Policy Vice President Alex Alexiev offers a further, sobering thought about the fire next time: It is becoming ever-harder to differentiate between the Gulf states’ so-called Sovereign Wealth Funds (actually they are the slush funds of the sovereigns) and Shariah-Compliant Finance. The former is increasingly being invested in ways that promote the latter, adding unfathomably large pools of funds to what is estimated already to be an $800 billion global industry.
The Center for Security Policy has sent copies of David Yerushalmi’s legal memorandum to the heads of scores of Wall Street firms and the nation’s leading commercial banks, warning them of the ominous similarities between subprime and SCF. Interestingly, only the late Merrill Lynch bothered to respond, albeit with a vacuous note blithely affirming its concern about terrorism.
Fortunately, Congress is beginning to recognize the possible peril in what may happen next to Wall Street. Notably, last month, a senior and highly respected member of the Senate Finance Committee, Arizona Republican Jon Kyl, wrote Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Chris Cox, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Attorney General Michael Mukasey, asking them to respond to Mr. Yerushalmi’s analysis of Shariah-Compliant Finance.
The question occurs: Will they encourage or discourage the capital markets’ leap into the fire via a headlong plunge into subprime on seditious steroids?
Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.