Malaysia: Adapting Finance to Islam

Palani Mohan for The New York Times

The Citibank building in central Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A number of big banks are adding Islamic banking businesses, in line with the Koran’s prohibition against charging interest. Money is lent with a set profit margin for the lender.

November 22, 2007

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Rising oil wealth is lifting Islamic banking — banking that adheres to the laws of the Koran and its prohibition against charging interest — into the financial mainstream.

Big banks, including Citigroup, HSBC and Deutsche Bank, as well as financial capitals like London, Tokyo and Hong Kong, are all going into the Islamic banking business. An estimated 300 Islamic financial institutions hold at least $500 billion in assets, an amount that is increasing more than 10 percent a year.

In addition to Islamic loans, there are Islamic bonds, Islamic credit cards and even Islamic derivatives. Loans and bonds that conform to the Koran are already available in the United States. Britain, Japan and Thailand are contemplating issuing Islamic bonds of their own.