Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Shariah-complaint funds face challenges

It's not easy to get a mutual fund off the ground these days, and it appears Shariah-compliant funds have an even more difficult time, particularly in the United States.

Earlier this month, columnist Alexander Green of "University U" (not an actual university but an investment advice website) wrote in a blog post that he wouldn't touch the recently-launched Dow Jones Islamic International fund "with a barge pole," opining that it's "virtually guaranteed to earn sub-par returns."

Green then proceeded to dig up the old argument that so-called sin stocks will always outperform socially responsible funds. It's a flawed argument, comparing apples to oranges, but that didn't deter Green, who said that in tough times, "many people feel an intense need to escape through alcohol, tobacco, or a trip to their local casino."

Still, Green says he's not advocating sin stocks, but believes his investment portfolio is a vehicle for achieving and maintaining financial independence, not for making grand moral statements. Fair enough, but his next statement suggests his motives for avoiding Shariah funds may have more to do with an underlying prejudice against Muslims. "Moreover, you need only look at Afghanistan under the Taliban to see what a society unleavened by political, religion and economic freedom looks like," he states.

Green ends his blog with this somewhat bizarre non-sequitur. "Last month, French President Sarkozy made news when he said the burqua - a symbol of the repression and subjugation of women - is not welcome in France. "Shariah law isn't welcome in my portfolio either."

Not surprisingly, Green's comments have been picked up by a number of Islam-phobic websites, including creeping sharia.com, defined as the "slow, deliberate, and methodolical advance of Islamic law (sharia) in non-Muslim countries ... also known as "stealth Jihad."

While we hesitate to even mention such sites on our blog, with Canada recently launching two Shariah-compliant funds - FrontierAlt Oasis and an as-yet unnamed joint ETF venture between Jovian Capital and UM Financial - we believe it's important that the SRI community comes together to oppose the blatantly racist opinions of people like Alexander Green and the people who run Creeping Sharia.

Green can be reached through the Investment U website.

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