Shariah Finance Watch hears from Mr. Oliver Agha, a Shariah Compliant Lawyer
Recently, Shariah Finance Watch received the letter below in response to a posting we published on 31 January. (http://www.shariahfinancewatch.org/blog/2012/01/31/is-shariah-compliant-finance-a-failure-a-self-serving-answer-from-the-financial-jihadis/)
To Whom It May Concern:
I write to clarify certain facts and set the record straight in relation to an article published on-line and displayed on the website “Shariah Finance Watch” on January 31, 2012 entitled “Is Shariah-Compliant Finance a Failure? (A Self-Serving Answer from the Financial Jihadis)” (the “Article”). The Center for Security Policy website links to the Shariah Finance Watch website, which in turn provides that it is a “project of the Center for Security Policy.”
The Article appears to be a response to my article entitled is “Islamic Finance a Failure?” that was published on Reuters on January 27, 2012. The Article asserts, in pertinent part, that I am a “financial jihadi” because I sit on the board of the Accounting and Auditing Organization of Islamic Finance Institutions (“AAOIFI”). The Article also claims that I am on the same board as Taqi Usmani on AAOIFI. That is false. I sit on the Accounting and Auditing Standards Board (“AASB”) of AAOIFI along with representatives of Clifford Chance, E&Y, Deloitte, PWC and KPMG, among others. Taqi Usmani sits on the Shari”ah Board of AAOIFI, which is a wholly separate board, and there is no interaction between the two boards of which I am aware.
These facts are easily ascertainable upon a review of the AAOIFI website. I do not know Mr. Usmani personally and have never been in his presence, except for one chance encounter, lasting perhaps ten seconds, at a hotel breakfast buffet. Nor do I espouse the incendiary views you have attributed to him and was not aware that he has purportedly made such pronouncements.
Naturally, I am deeply disturbed by being labelled a “financial jihadi” because it is categorically false. Moreover, the Article”s labelling me as such, and its false attempt to link me with Mr. Usmani, can have only one purpose: to paint me in a false light in an effort to damage my reputation and standing in the legal, business and, for that matter, the larger community. To limit the damage that these false and defamatory statements have caused, please retract the Article immediately, remove it from online publication, and expunge any reference or links thereto.
If I do not hear back from you within 14 days of receipt of this letter, and find the Article appropriately disposed of online, I will have no other option but to assume you refuse to do so.
At this point we would like to clarify our posting about Mr. Agha and the article he wrote for Reuters, “Is Islamic Finance a Failure?”
Mr. Agha has obvious concerns about being connected with Mufti Taqi Usmani, the infamous Shariah scholar that we have written about so extensively over the years. The association comes from the fact that both Mr. Agha and Usmani are associated with AAOIFI, the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions. We certainly do not blame Mr. Agha for not wanting to be associated with Usmani. Usmani is a barbarian, as we pointed out in our blog post and have many times in the past. We wouldn’t want to be associated with Usmani either.
But Mr. Agha is mistaken. We NEVER wrote, implied or stated that he was on the same board as Usmani. In fact, we specifically pointed out in our post that AAOIFI also has a Shariah advisory board and that Usmani is the chair of that Shariah advisory board.
At no time did we state that Usmani was on any other board at AAOIFI, nor did we state that Mr. Agha is on AAOIFI’s Shariah advisory board.
Mr. Agha emphasizes in his letter that he has no relationship with Mr. Usmani. We do not doubt that at all. Usmani’s background and work are well known. The fact that Mr. Agha has no personal relationship with Usmani is not relevant. At no point does our posting claim that they have a personal relationship of any kind. Nevertheless, they are associated with the same organization and, in the case of Usmani, he is in a clear leadership position with AAOIFI. And AAOIFI keeps Usmani in that position despite his barbarism when both HSBC and Dow Jones removed Usmani from their Shariah advisory boards, reportedly because of his caustic, pro-violent jihad writings and other nefarious activities.
Perhaps Mr. Agha should seek to do more extensive due diligence about the organizations with which he becomes associated because his position with AAOIFI puts him in the same organization to which Usmani provides spiritual leadership. These are facts.
In fact, we think everyone in the Islamic finance industry should be concerned that men like Usmani hold leadership positions in their self-regulatory organizations and should seek to distance themselves from organizations that place men like Usmani in such positions.
It is our view, however, that it is practically and theoretically impossible for such organizations, which embrace sharia-adherent finance, to distance themselves from men such as Usmani or Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, the de facto leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and recognized authority on all things sharia, including, and especially, sharia-adherent finance and violent jihad.
By way of review, to acquaint readers who are not familiar with Mufti Taqi Usmani, we will repost here details of his background, which were part of our original post to which Mr. Agha objected:
In September 2001, Usmani was part of a small delegation of clerics known to be sympathetic to the Taliban in Afghanistan and travelled there to ostensibly convince Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, to turn over Osama Bin Laden to the United States. Information leaked later by some of the clerics present at the meeting indicates that the delegation may have, in fact, tried to stiffen the Taliban’s will to resist.
Usmani is a prolific writer in Urdu, Arabic and English, having published dozens of books and countless articles. Among his books available in English is a vitriolic attack on Christianity called “What is Christianity” and a broadside against the West and modernity called “Islam and Modernism.” In fact, in “Islam and Modernism,” Usmani demands, by way of a detailed sharia-based analysis, a call for violent jihad against the West by Muslims living in the West. Why? Because per sharia Muslims and Islam may never be “equal” to other religions; they must dominate.
Here is one particularly revealing quote from “Islam and Modernism:”
“Killing is to continue until the unbelievers pay jizyah (subjugation tax) after they are humbled or overpowered.”
Usmani is well-known for his quite orthodox and authentic understanding of sharia ‘s uncompromising views on the mandatory nature of conducting offensive jihad against non-Muslims “in order to establish the supremacy of Islam” worldwide.
Usmani also complained bitterly at the lack of martyrs to combat American forces in Iraq:
“No one is found having any desire of Shahadah (martyrdom). How many mothers are there who want to sacrifice their sons for the cause of Islam? How many sisters are there who want to say goodbye to their brothers departing to wage jihad against non-believers?”
Usmani referred to Americans in Iraq as “stinking atheists” and “the worst ever butchers and vultures of the world” who are “clawing off the flesh of bodies of innocent Iraqi Muslims.”
According to what Usmani has said and written, aggressive jihad against unbelievers is an Islamic obligation and, as such, does not need any justification.
“For a non-Muslim state to have more pomp and glory than a Muslim state itself is an obstacle, therefore to shatter this grandeur is among the greater objectives of jihad.”
For Taqi Usmani, offensive jihad can be postponed for a time only in cases when the Muslims in question are not strong enough to battle or otherwise challenge the infidels. And so, he advises the Muslims to live peacefully in countries like Britain, for instance, but only until they gain enough power to carry out jihad.
Under Pakistani dictator General Zia al-Haq (1977-1988), himself a zealous advocate of Shariah, Usmani played a key role in the introduction of the Shariah-based punishment code known as the Huddud Ordinance, as well as blasphemy laws and other Shariah injunctions, to the huge detriment of Pakistani justice and civil liberties.
This does not mean that Mr. Agha shares Usmani’s world view, philosophy or business practices. On the contrary, we doubt Mr. Agha would have written us if he did share Usmani’s belief system. We are heartened that Mr. Agha would seek to distance himself from someone like Usmani. After all, Mr. Agha practices law successfully in America and Usmani seems as anti-American as one can get without actually taking up arms against Americans.
This brings us to the term, “financial jihadi,” which we used to describe Mr. Agha in our posting.
This is a term used from time to time on SFW to describe promoters of Shariah-Compliant Finance. We did not invent the term. Its origins come from Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, who coined the term “Jihad with Money.”
In fact, as many of our Islamic friends have pointed out to us repeatedly, Jihad does not mean “Holy War” and the greater Jihad means “to struggle.” Numerous leaders in the world of Shariah-Compliant Finance have referred to the industry as performing a form of Jihad and/or dawah.
This is further illustrated in this article published recently in a Malaysian publication (Malaysia is one of the centers of Shariah Finance), which urges Muslims to “perform Jihad to boost the economy.” It defines Jihad as “an effort to achieve goodness.”
At no point in our posting do we tie Mr. Agha to violence or holy war. To the extent that the article gave Mr. Agha that impression, we certainly regret the error and we will retract our labeling of Mr. Agha as such.