Monday, December 14, 2009

"Usury" in Discussion

I normally stop reading a blog post when it begins like, "It's been a while since I last posted." So I won't do it. Now to the point, I've always felt that we need to stop sounding all religious-like when we want to make a point about ethical or moral issues. Any discussion worth its sodium should really stand on the merits of its clear appeal. There's wisdom in the fact that we have to listen to a sermon only one day a week, and surely there's wisdom in having praise attached to a sermon's brevity. Well, if you're wondering, "usury" has been making a come back. I don't mean banks and credit companies charging crazy interest rates. That's been going on for a while, as you know. I mean discussions about "usury" as a bad thing hitting mainstream. You may want to look at this article in the Nation about usury, called "Stop Usury Now." When was the last time you read that phrase in a left-leaning, popular magazine, written by a person without the title "Rev" or "Shaykh" or "Rabbi" or "Minister" or "Priestess"?
"The Democratic party brushed aside the question of usury last spring when Congress decided not to impose any limits on the ruinous interest rates charged by major banks and other lenders. But usury is now back on the table, put in play by Metro IAF, an alliance of two dozen faith-based community organizations affiliated nationwide with the Industrial Areas Foundation. These politically savvy community groups draw their members from diverse religions and across the usual divisions of race and class. They are staging face-to-face "actions" to confront bankers and politicians around the country with a blunt moral message. Usury is a sin, Judaism, Christianity and Islam agree, and must be stopped."


Blogger UmmFarouq said...

Well, this has been a long time coming. I welcome this discussion.

12/14/2009 6:47 AM  
Anonymous Maliha said...

Nice post and good to see you back.

Here's a related article on how the Islamic finance industry could have paved a way, if they were more honest and stuck to the principles:

** How Islamic finance missed heavenly chance **

Amid the confusion and consternation of the global financial crisis, Islamic banking had a gilt-edged chance to step into the breach. But from Mecca to Malaysia, the world's Islamic bankers were paralysed. What happened?
< >

12/14/2009 7:01 AM  
Anonymous Abu Noor Al-Irlandee said...

I'm very strongly of two minds about the notion that we should stop "sounding all religious" when discussing moral/ethical issues.

First, I think we all understand that "preachiness" turns people off in our culture (perhaps in all cultures but certainly in our culture) So if we wish to effectively engage in making society better especially joining with people across religious lines or people who are not religious but to be honest also in just trying to rally as many Muslims as possible, one can see why it is helpful to speak about issues of morality separate from narrow or specific religious language.

Now, for the other side: isn't it true to some extent that the reason people don't like religious talk is because they have separated 'religion' from 'morality/ethics' often at the expense of religion. I mean many people, for sometimes good and sometimes bad reasons, no longer see 'religion' as the source of their true morality.

But, again, although it may in many cases be the fault of us who are 'religious' isn't this a tragedy? This is something we have to reverse, no?

So the question becomes by engaging in religious-free morality talk, are we promoting this division?

I think one possible answer lies in what we tried to do with groups like IMAN which is to engage in positive action in the community with all types of people while being clearly 'religious' but not having to always talk about 'religion.' Of course, other groups have tried this before..and it is always a question as to where on the continuum of religious expression one should fall.

One strategy I like when starting out is to rely on strong charismatic personalities who can project the importance of concepts usually thought of as 'religious' in creative and engaging ways not usually considered 'preachy.' But as organizations grow and institutionalize themselves, with paid staff and funders, etc. etc. it is my perception that it becomes more and more difficult to manage this balance well.

These are just prelimary thoughts but the topic is one I find interesting.

12/22/2009 3:00 PM  
Blogger fromclay said...

Thanks for the comments, folks. As for separating religion from morality, that's not entirely a secular concept, Abu Noor. Nor is necessarily a bane. There's mercy in it, in fact. If the only people on earth concerned with morality and ethics were "religious" folks, then corruption would be beyond description. Also, I'd like to see many religious folks get some morality. To perform the rites of religion do not guarantee ethics. I'm sure you've seen this many times yourself. I have for sure.

12/30/2009 3:25 AM  
Anonymous JDay said...

I am starting to wonder whether the ban on usury is part of a program to stop the disparity of wealth between classes.
Another approach, ala FDR, is to simply tax the super-wealthy out of existence. Of course I agree with this approach, because I am not in the super wealthy camp!
However, when people talk about 'the good old days' of American middle class, they are generally talking about the 1950s when the super rich were heavily taxed, there was wage control (left over from the war years), and labor unions were strong. I can go on, but you should read Kaufman's "The Conscience of a Liberal"- he's much more lucid and I think the Obama camp is trying to implement his ideas.
Oh yeah, he's secular.

5/24/2010 8:03 AM  
Anonymous JDay said...

Sorry, It's Paul Krugman that wrote "Conscience of a Liberal". He won the Nobel Prize in Economics.
While on economics, pick through "Freakonomics" by Levitt and Dubner. Lots to think about there in terms of economic incentives.

5/24/2010 5:34 PM  
Blogger fromclay said...

Thanks for the book recommendation. I have Freakocomics and hope to get to it soon.

5/25/2010 1:29 AM  
Anonymous learn quran said...

nice article and coll way of explaining love the way you write the articles

6/15/2010 12:41 PM  

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