Earlier today, we posted  a link to an article which mentioned that a Kuwaiti Islamic Bank had entered into a joint venture with Colorado-based real estate company UDR:

http://www.shariahfinancewatch.org/blog/2009/08/17/shariah-compliant-sovereign-wealth-funds-resume-investing-in-west/

We were curious as to what, if any, restrictions were to be imposed on the real estate properties in which Kuwait Finance House invested here in the United States, so we made an inquiry via UDR’s “contact us” form on the company’s web site.

The company was quick to reply as, within minutes, we received a phone call from Dave Messenger, CFO of UDR.

I asked Mr. Messenger two questions:

1. What, if any, special restrictions or qualifications relating to Shariah were required in the deal with the Kuwaiti Islamic bank?

2. Are zakat payments to be made as part of this venture?

Mr. Messenger did not attempt to address question number 2, but referred me to Kuwait Finance House to get an answer to that question.

Mr. Messenger was able to provide much more information in response to question number 1.

His answer was troubling, right from the outset.

First of all, he mispronounced “shariah.” Shariah is pronounced shu-ree-uh. Messenger pronounced it shu-rye-uh.

It does not inspire a great deal of confidence in terms of due diligence when the CFO of the American entity which entered into the agreement with an Islamic bank cannot even correctly pronounce the name of the underlying doctrine which governs their joint venture partner.

Messenger was not bashful at all about the issue of shariah-compliance.

He declared that the entire agreement was written to be shariah-compliant to make sure that the joint venture properties fit in with their partners’ religion.

When asked about specific provisions which he knew about to establish and maintain shariah compliance, Messenger named two: “cinematography and food served on the property.”

I asked what he meant by cinematography and he explained that some of their properties include movie theaters.

Evidently, Kuwait Finance House wants to make sure that no offensive movies are shown on properties in which they invest.

In terms of “food served on property” Messenger explained that no pork would be served on the property at functions put on by UDR.

I asked him if any of the properties leased to sandwich shops or delis or such. He said that 8 of their 160 properties did have such tenants.

Again, evidently, those businesses would be prohibited from serving pork to prevent any conflict with shariah or the religion of UDR’s venture partners.

Messenger explained that potential conflicts with shariah were addressed up front with the JV partners and would continue to be addressed up front to prevent conflicts.

What has clearly happened here is that Kuwait Finance House has been able to impose shariah here in the United States by using its financial leverage over UDR.

This is the essence of Shariah-Compliant Finance.

 

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