WASHINGTON: Radical Islam has made inroads in most countries with a Muslim majority, and its influence is steadily growing in many Western nations, fuelled by “petrodollars”, according to Rachel Ehrenfeld, director of the American Centre for Democracy.
And while, she maintains, the Quran does not require that women wear a veil, Qatari scholar Yousuf al-Qaradawi claims that banning the veil “is a glaring violation of both Islamic teachings and relevant international charters of human rights which regard clothing as a matter of one’s personal freedom”.
Increasingly, Muslim restrictions on alcohol and dogs also effect Western non-Muslims. Somali cab drivers in Minneapolis, Pakistani minicab drivers in London and Muslim taxi drivers in Melbourne have refused to transport blind passengers with guide-dogs after the Saudi religious police issued a ban on dogs. They also refuse passengers suspected of carrying duty-free sealed alcohol bottles to avoid “cooperating in sin,” emulating Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahamadinejad’s well-publicised refusal to attend a lunch at the United Nations in New York because alcohol was served.
She maintains that the “petrodollar-backed Islamists” are on a fast track to subvert democracies from within. With the best PR money can buy, they use media and communication outlets to popularise and legitimise the Islamist agenda, while deceiving the public as to its very nature. Under the guise of personal freedom, cherished in the West, they introduce conservative Muslim restrictions on private and public life. The Qatar-based Al Jazeera, which she calls the major platform for Osama Bin Laden and other Islamist messages, has just started an English language service. Middle East petrodollars are also said to pay “hefty retainers” to former Western diplomats to influence public opinion and lobby for change in public policy and laws.
Ehrenfeld believes that the Saudis are also at the forefront of the internationalisation of Islamic banking. In 1992, following pressure from religious leaders, King Fahd established the Consultative Council, which aligned Saudi laws with Sharia, and expanded Islamic banks in Saudi Arabia. With the exponential growth in Saudi oil wealth and the growing influence of petrodollars in Western markets, the Saudis also successfully promoted interest in Islamic banking worldwide.
According to author Timur Kuran, “Ceding Islamists a monopoly over the interpretation of Islam’s economic requirements has enabled them to determine which economic behaviours and approaches are properly Islamic and which are to be resisted as dangerously un-Islamic.” This development, Ehrenfeld argues, has introduced Sharia into the otherwise entirely secular US financial market, thereby effectively establishing a two-tier banking system. Moreover, since Islamic law prohibits interest payments, Islamic banks instead effectively pay and collect interest as part of the “principal”.