Interest-Free credit card available for Canadian Muslims

A new interest-free credit card, the first of its kind in North America, aims to reconcile Islamic canonical law and Western consumer culture. Until now, observant Muslims have been precluded from owning credit cards on which they pay interest, a violation of shariah law.

The iFreedom Plus Master-Card, set to be available in the coming days, promises no bills, no interest and no credit card debt. With the iFreedom Plus MasterCard, holders load up their card with cash in advance, up to $6,000. Each purchase draws down on the account without accruing interest.
Because the new product doesn’t actually involve credit, applicants are approved without a credit check. The card, which is primarily aimed at younger newcomers, was launched at the inaugural conference of the Usury-Free Association of North America in Toronto.

When the Swiss voted to ban new Minarets, this man built one

A week after Switzerland voted to ban the construction of minarets, in an apparent act of defiance, a new minaret unexpectedly sprang up in Bussigny, a small town near Geneva. But the new minaret is not attached to a mosque; Bussigny doesn’t even have one. And it’s not the work of a local Muslim outraged by Switzerland’s controversial vote to ban the structures, which often are used to launch the call to prayer.

Instead, Bussigny’s minaret is attached to the warehouse of a shoe store called Pomp It Up, which is part of a Swiss chain. It was erected by the chain’s owner, Guillaume Morand, who had an architect fashion it out of plastic and wood and attach it to a chimney. The new minaret, nearly 20 feet high and illuminated at night, is clearly visible from the main highway connecting Lausanne and Geneva.

“The referendum was a scandal,” Mr. Morand said recently. “I was ashamed to be Swiss. I don’t have the power to do much, but I wanted to give a message of peace to Muslims.”

Contemporary Muslim Consumer Cultures – an Emerging Field of Study

Consumer culture in the Muslim world, or Muslims as a specific target group who participate actively in a consumer market, are rather new realms for academic researchers. For many Muslims, consumption plays an increasing role in identity formation. Their growing cultural and religious self-awareness transforms markets, advertising strategies and consumer behavior. Muslim consumer culture is closely interrelated to globalization and is, therefore, of relevance to various areas of economic, sociological, anthropological, psychological and religious scholarship. However, so far scholarly research on this subject has been very limited. And though studies very often acknowledge or include the interdisciplinary character of Muslim consumer culture, there is still a need for a comprehensive analysis of its many aspects.

The conference aims at creating a network of international scholars and young researchers with various approaches to the subject, and it also aims at initiating exchange and cooperation between them to develop the basic grounds for this emerging field of study. It will include two invited keynote speakers, two panel discussions led by experts, and a number of workshops during which all participants will have the opportunity to present and discuss their research projects. There will be no more than 20 speakers to allow useful discussion. We especially encourage applications from the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Submissions of abstracts and papers on the following broad themes are encouraged:

  • Issues of advertising products for a Muslim target group 
  
  • Gender-specific consumption behavior in a Muslim context 

  • “Western” versus “Islamic” brands 
  
  • The question whether there is such a thing as an Islamic consumer, and how it can be defined 
 Products geared toward a religious public (e.g. Islamic fashion) 
  
  • Recent developments in the consumer landscape of Muslim societies 
  
  • Religious and moral factors affecting individual patterns of consumption or legislation, e.g. questions of ritual purity.

All papers that are submitted by the start of the conference and successfully complete a peer-review process will be published in a concerence volume.

Please submit your application, including an abstract of about 150-200 words and a short c.v., by May 15, 2008, preferrably by e-mail. Registration fee is 50 €; lodging, breakfast and lunch meals will be provided. We offer a reimbursement of travel costs for participants from the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Turkey, the Americas and the countries of the former Soviet Union if their institution is not able to cover them.

Contact: Freie Universität Berlin, Institut für Islamwissenschaft, Dr. Johanna Pink, Altensteinstr. 40, 14195 Berlin, Germany, phone: +49 (0) 30-838-51437, fax: +49 (0) 30-838-52830, e-mail: jpink@zedat.fu-berlin.de.