Waleed El-Ansary, PhD
This paper examines several major economic challenges that minority Muslim communities face in the West. These include:
1) financing the purchase of homes, automobiles, consumer durables, and other commercial transactions in a Shariah-compliant manner given the Qur’anic prohibition of riba and the widespread perception that the fiat currencies now in use are analogous to gold-backed currencies prevalent before 1973, and even commodity-based currencies at the time of the Prophet (saws) such as the dinar,
2) obtaining health, life, and property insurance in a Shariah-compliant manner given the Qur’anic prohibitions against riba, gharar, and maysir, and encouragement of risk-sharing as opposed to risk-trading, and
3) bio-ethical issues in which Muslim women can earn over $50,000 serving as surrogate mothers, up to $36,000 for donating six cycles of eggs, and so forth.
As we shall see, the relative importance of these economic issues for Muslim minorities in the West will vary from country to country, since the laws and social welfare systems in Western countries are diverse.
I. Financing Home Ownership
Perhaps the most pressing challenge Muslim minorities living in the West face is obtaining what they perceive as Shariah-compliant financing to purchase a home. As Table 1 indicates, home ownership rates in the European Union (EU) and North America range from a high 96.4% in Romania to a low of 52.5% in Germany, with the United States at 65% near the bottom of the list. This is in stark contrast to the mere 33% home ownership rate for Muslim Americans.
Home ownership rate (%)
It is important to note that there is no data on home ownership rates for Muslims living in the West outside of the U.S. But because Muslim Americans enjoy relatively high education, socio-economic status, and income compared to their EU counterparts, the Muslim American experience arguably provides a “best case” scenario for Muslims living in the West. As a Brookings Institute report on Muslims living in Europe concludes:
The difference [between Muslims living in Europe and]… America is easy to grasp. While most of the 2 to 3 million Muslims of America (close to 1% of the population), of which 77% are citizens, are first-generation immigrants, they enjoy much better social conditions than European Muslims, as they generally mirror the U.S. public in education and income, including at the highest end of the income scale. They are not concentrated in pockets of poverty and disaffection. They benefit from a powerful integration process, including a dynamic job market and a multicultural environment – even after expressions of racism and Islamophobia following 9/11.
The challenges that Muslims face to home ownership in EU countries are thus even greater than in the U.S. given the more difficult migration history of Muslim Europeans on one hand and the relatively recent growth of a middle class of Muslim background on the other.
In contrast, the Pew Research Center’s 2011 Muslim American Survey summarizes its results on Muslim American education and income as follows:
The percentage of Muslims who have graduated from college (26%) is about the same as among all U.S. adults (28%). At the other end of the educational spectrum, there also is no significant difference in the proportion who failed to finish high school (14% of U.S. Muslims, 13% of the general public). Muslim Americans – particularly those born in the United States – are more likely than Americans as a whole to have only graduated from high school. But a very high percentage (26%) says they are currently enrolled in college or university classes (compared with 13% among the general public).
U.S. Muslims are about as likely to report household incomes of $100,000 or more as are other Americans (14% of Muslims, compared with 16% of all adults). But differences emerge in the middle of the scale: 40% of Muslim Americans report family incomes between $30,000 and $100,000, compared with 48% of the general public. And a higher percentage of Muslim Americans than the general public report that their annual household earnings are less than $30,000 (45% among Muslims, 36% among the general public).
These results are broken down in greater detail in the following table:
Table 2 – Education and Income
Not HS graduate
Currently enrolled in college
Less than $30,000
The inescapable conclusion is that Muslim Americans’ socio-economic status or income cannot explain their lower rate of home ownership. The difference might therefore be largely due to Muslim Americans’ perception that paying interest on home loans is a form of riba, making conventional mortgages haram. In fact, this view is commonly expressed in the Western literature on Islamic finance and economics by both Muslim and non-Muslim authors. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of imams in the U.S. espouse this position, and any imam or community leader who challenges this view is open to severe criticism from fellow Muslims, jeopardizing his or her reputation in the community.
This has led to a plethora of “Islamic” alternatives to conventional home finance, all of which are more costly than conventional mortgages because of higher transactions costs associated with the creation of “special purpose vehicles” to place at least “one degree of separation” between allegedly haram and halal sources of financing. There are therefore “Islamic” windows at conventional banks as well as other models to provide Islamic financing through musharaka structures, but they are all more expensive than conventional alternatives.
What is completely absent from the current discussion of Islamic finance in the West is the potential difference between commodity-based currencies such as gold and silver at the time of the Prophet (saws), gold-backed currencies consistent with the Bretton Woods Agreement until 1973, and fiat currencies now prevalent throughout the world. Leading Muslim scholars such as H.E. Dr. Ali Gomaa and Dr. Abdullah bin Bayyah have persuasively argued that riba applies only to the first two forms of currency, not to a fiat currency so long as financing is based on simple rather than compound interest. From an economic perspective, a fiat currency has radically different properties than commodity or gold-backed currencies, and it would make great sense if Islamic law reflected this difference.
If so, the challenges that Muslims living in the West face with respect to financing home ownership is one of perception rather than substance. The challenge is not to create new vehicles for Islamic finance, but to educate imams in the West as well as Muslims in general on the Islamic legal and economic distinctions between these three types of currencies and their implications for the permissibility of conventional finance with simple (not compound) interest.
Such an educational campaign would have enormous financial implications for Muslims living in the West, ranging from increased levels of home ownership to financing consumer durables to business finance. It would also affect Muslims’ investment options, retirement accounts, and even their view of zakat payments on the profits from these investments. Although this first set of challenges regarding Islamic finance is arguably a matter of perception rather than substance, the same does not apply to various forms of insurance, to which we now turn.
II. Purchasing Health, Life, Property Insurance
Purchasing insurance is often a major challenge for minority Muslim communities in the West because Islam forbids risk-trading and requires risk-sharing such as mutual and takaful insurance. However, the majority of insurance policies sold in the West involve risk-trading with joint stock insurance companies, violating Qur’anic prohibitions against riba, gharar, and maysir. These challenges may vary substantially by type of insurance and from country to country, since the laws and social welfare systems in Western countries are so diverse. This section is therefore divided into three parts dealing with health, life, and property insurance, respectively.
1. Health Insurance
It is well documented that the U.S. is the most expensive health care system in the world with annual expenditures now totaling over $10,000 per person. The following figure compares health care spending as a percentage of GDP between various countries to illustrate how U.S. spending is now by far the highest:
Many people incorrectly assume that such greater health care expenditures in the U.S. translate into better health (or better health outcomes), but the evidence does not support this view. The following table drawn from prior surveys and national health system scoring models as well as data from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) demonstrates that U.S. health care ranks last overall compared to other Western nations. It shows that the U.S. provides the least access to needed health care because high costs discourage people from seeking health care in the first place, ranks last in terms of efficiency (the U.K. and Sweden rank first and second, respectively) because of excessive administrative costs, avoidable emergency room use, and redundant medical testing, and ranks last in terms of equity. Indeed, the U.S. is the only country where medical expenses are a contributing (if not leading) cause of personal bankruptcies, and approximately 84 million non-elderly Americans that are either uninsured or underinsured, or 1/3 of the non-elderly U.S. population. Finally, the U.S. ranks last on all three indicators of healthy lives, namely, mortality amenable to medical care, infant mortality, and healthy life expectancy at age 60 (France, Sweden, and Switzerland rank highest overall).
To make matters worse from an Islamic legal perspective, health insurance in the U.S. is generally based on risk-trading rather than risk-sharing, because health insurance is usually provided by employers through publicly traded insurance companies. Employers often subsidize insurance for their employees as part of their benefits packages, and employees’ insurance contributions are not treated as taxable income according to U.S. law. The combination of employer subsidies on one hand and government tax breaks on the other make it nearly impossible for the overwhelming working Muslim Americans to avoid risk-trading in health insurance.
Muslim Americans who are retired do not face the same dilemma, since they are insured through Medicare, a single-payer government program based on risk-sharing rather than risk-trading. Moreover, Muslim American families and individuals with very limited financial resources can use Medicaid, another U.S. government health care program designed to assist poor families and individuals. Approximately 34% of U.S. residents were covered by these and other public insurance programs in 2013. The following table divides health care spending into public and private categories in OECD countries to illustrate this distinction and its implications for risk-trading associated with most commercial insurance companies versus risk-sharing in public programs.
Note that the ratio of private to public health care spending is far higher for the U.S. than any other country (the gray bar in the middle represents the OECD average).
And for all the rhetoric surrounding “Obamacare” (which appears to suffer from a host of problems of its own that require correction to remain viable), there will still be an estimated 30 million uninsured Americans in 2016, as the following figure illustrates:
Based on the preceding data and analysis, the U.S. appears to provide the worst health care at the highest prices in the least Shari’ah-compliant manner, whereas the UK appears to provide the best health care in the most cost-effective manner that is Shari’ah compliant. The difference is that the latter provides universal health care through public financing based on risk-sharing, whereas the former provides selective health care through primarily private financing based on risk-trading. Other European countries are closer to the UK model than the U.S. model in terms of public vs. private financing, with all this implies for risk-sharing vs. risk-trading and the different health insurance challenges that Muslim Americans face relative to Muslim Europeans. In a sense, this is the opposite of their respective positions on home ownership discussed in the preceding section.
This raises the obvious question as to why U.S. politicians avoid the cost debate on changing the nature U.S. health care system. Rick Scott, Governor of Florida, summarizes the answer in the following two sentences, “How many businesses do you know that want to cut their revenue in half? That’s why the health care system won’t change the health care system.”
Since changing the U.S. health care system involves a collective rather than individual choice, and that special interest groups are controlling the political decision-making process, it is unclear what Islamic law can do other than encourage the spread of greater takaful health insurance options, although these face regulatory hurdles since U.S. regulators are not familiar with them on hand, and cannot address the deeper problems plaguing the U.S. health care system given entrenched special interests on the other.
2. Life Insurance and Retirement Savings Accounts
Life insurance and retirement savings are often linked in the West, because life insurance premiums can be invested for retirement savings. Such combinations of life insurance and retirement savings are called “permanent life insurance,” in contrast to “term life insurance” which provides “pure” insurance without a savings component, that is, term life insurance never accumulates any “cash surrender value.” There are a variety of different permanent insurance policies that are worth noting. In the U.S., for example, “whole life” insurance involves fixed premiums in which one pays the same amount every year for coverage, whereas “universal life” insurance allows one to adjust the premiums and coverage amounts so long as minimal levels are met. Other alternatives include “variable life” insurance in which one can choose among several investment options such as a money market fund, bond fund, and one or more stock funds, and “variable universal life” insurance that combines features of both universal and variable life, thus creating a flexible premium version of variable life insurance.
The first issue that arises from an Islamic legal point of view for both permanent and term life insurance is whether or not they are based on risk-sharing or risk-trading as discussed in the previous sections. The second issue that arises is specific to permanent life insurance, namely whether investments related to it are Shari’ah compliant. For example, are interest-bearing securities in the context of a fiat currency permissible (as discussed in part I of this paper), and what types of stock market investments are allowed?
Although the majority of insurance premiums sold in the West are permanent rather than term, different countries have significantly different ratios. For example, in France the overwhelming majority of premiums are permanent, or “endowment” insurance in French terms, with only 6.6% of policies being term insurance. In the U.S., by far the largest insurance market in the world with premiums greater than the next four largest markets combined (Japan, UK, France, and Germany), term life insurance holds a more prominent position with approximately 1/4 of the market.
Moreover, the average amount of life insurance premiums collected per capita (or “life insurance density”) among Western countries varies widely, with Switzerland and the U.K. ranking highest at over $3,000 per year and Spain and Greece the lowest at less than $600, while the U.S. is near the middle at nearly $1,700, as the following table illustrates:
Life Insurance Premiums per Capita Per Year
(U.S. Dollars, 2004)
Demos Papasavvas, a leading insurance executive who was born in Greece, explains such wide differences as follows:
The first factor is the family unit. In most Southern European countries, family is a very close unit. In the past, though not so much now, whenever there were financial problems, the rest of the family would get together and help other members of the family. If, for example, a husband died and left a widow with not much money to support herself, either her parents or his parents or the brothers and sisters would come in and help. As a result, people did not see the need to take out life insurance. If something did go wrong, other members of the family would help. …
[Moreover] in a lot of these countries, people are not used to borrowing money. In the U.K. it is very common to borrow money to buy a house. This does not happen in Greece and certainly this did not happen in Cyprus or Portugal. People would only buy a house once they had accumulated enough money to do so. After that, there was no need to have any cover.
Another factor that has not helped has been the unfavorable legislation and taxation in these countries. The life insurance industry was very underdeveloped. The government did not see the need to encourage sales of life insurance and was not particularly keen to introduce advantageous terms for insurance companies.
Indeed, the first social factor was a major cause for the rise of life insurance coverage in France in the second half of the 19th century. As Bertrand Vernard points out:
During this period insurance switched from a small niche concerning only wealthy businessmen or property owners to a mass market. An important internal migration occurred in the direction of French cities. Breaking family rural links, the new French urban population did not have the benefit of the former solidarity system, which was mainly based on familial relations within French villages … . Relying less on self-insurance, the French population started to find coverage from insurance companies.
Family and social cohesiveness is very significant from the Islamic point of view, since at least one male figure in any extended family is always responsible for the care of dependents according to Islamic law. If the male income-provider dies, another family member must take responsibility for his dependents. (Unfortunately, some economists are unaware of this fact, and they attribute the low life insurance premiums per capita in Muslim-majority countries to the belief “that a reliance on life insurance results from a distrust of God’s protecting care,” therefore representing a lack of faith. This is absurd given the legitimacy of risk-sharing and takaful insurance in Islamic law. Islam forbids risk-trading, not cooperation for the common good.)
However, extended family structures are often not available to most Muslims living in the West, many of whom are recent immigrants, and the enormous differences in the cost of living between the Islamic world and the West usually make it nearly impossible for extended families living in the Islamic world to contribute to the expenses of their relatives living abroad (with notable exceptions, of course). Accordingly, Muslims in the West often have a greater need for life insurance than their Muslim relatives in the Islamic world, for the same reasons as the non-Muslim populations in the West.
But the fertility rate of Muslims in the West is greater than that of non-Muslims. In fact, Muslims have the highest fertility rate of any other religious group in the world with an average of 3.1 children per woman, far above the replacement rate of 2.1 necessary to maintain a steady population. In the West, Muslim American women have an average of 2.8 children, and Muslim European women have an average of 2.2 children, significantly more than 1.5 children among non-Muslim women. Similarly, the Muslim American population is significantly younger than the non-Muslim population with nearly 60% of adult Muslims between the ages of 18 and 39 and 40% of adults in that age bracket in the general public. Likewise, the median age of Muslims in Europe in 2010 was 32, ten years younger than the median age of their Christian counterparts at 42, and eight years younger than the median for all Europeans. In short, the data suggest that Muslims in the West marry earlier and have more children than their non-Muslim counterparts, many of whom do not marry, or marry later in life and often do not have at least two children to meet minimum replacement rates for their populations to avoid declining in numbers over the long-term. The native non-Muslim population in many Western countries is therefore declining, prompting governments to introduce tax and other incentives for their citizens to have more children.
This higher fertility rate among Muslims has a dramatic effect on their need for life insurance, since the greater the number of dependents, the greater their need for life insurance to maintain their standard of living if the primary income provider dies. The United Nations defines this “dependency” factor as “the ratio of the total number of children under 15 to the total number of persons between 15 and 64.” (Note that this definition does not include dependent members of the extended family, as would Islamic law as discussed above.) Muslims living in the West therefore have a greater need for life insurance based on their dependency ratio as well.
Finally, since Muslims living in the West have lower rates of home ownership than their non-Muslim counterparts, particularly in Europe as discussed in part I of this paper, there is a greater need to cover their on-going housing-rental expenses than they would if more Muslims owned homes outright, or with modest amounts of mortgage debt at long-term fixed interest rates. The question of the need for life insurance is thus connected to the earlier question of whether or not a fiat currency is a ribawi good.
The answer to this is also relevant to the Islamic legal status of retirement investments made through their employer’s retirement plans, since many of these investments are in bonds rather than stocks. In the U.S., for example, employers usually provide retirement benefits to their employees as part of their benefits package, just as we saw with health care insurance, often with very little, if any, employee control over how these accumulating retirement funds are invested. These benefits are often financially significant, and Muslim employees in the West often have little (or no) choice but to participate in their employers’ group-term life insurance and retirement plans, no matter how their employers invest those funds.
While some companies allow their employees to select from a variety of stock and bond portfolios with certain ethical screens, such as prohibiting investments in weapons manufacturers, alcohol and tobacco producers, “adult entertainment” and other noxious markets, most do not; and employees usually cannot control the specific stocks investments in their employers’ retirement portfolio. And although “Islamic stock market funds” exist, they are rarely an option in Western employers’ benefits packages. Even when Islamic funds are an option, they are more expensive to hold given their higher fees and transactions costs than many other funds. Similarly, the Shari’ah screens these funds use to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate investments from an Islamic point of view are debatable, since the screens or criteria for evaluating funds for Shari’ah compliance, assume that a fiat currency is a ribawi good. In short, Islamic funds in the West market themselves as “Islamic” by avoiding interest as much as possible while charging higher fees than many other funds.
Finally, most of the life insurance plans offered by employers in the West involve risk-trading rather than risk-sharing. Indeed, the market share of mutual life insurance funds (cooperatives where the insured policy holders have some form of “ownership” of the insurance enterprise) has declined significantly over the years in the West with many mutual life insurance companies “demutualizing” and becoming conventional joint stock corporations in the 1980s and 1990s. For example, between 1993 and 2003 in the US, the market share for mutual life insurance dropped from around 40% to 20%. In the U.K., the situation was even worse with less than 10%, and a similar pattern occurred in Germany. However, the latter case is complicated by the fact that German regulation requires life insurers to distribute “at least 90 percent of their annual profits (in the form of an annual/terminal bonus) to policyholders, which are called the variable nonguaranteed surplus.” This makes German life insurance analogous to mutual insurance, even if most German insurance companies do not technically offer mutual life insurance policies. It is also significant to note that the German public social security system still provides generous benefits, whereas insurance products “have progressively been shifted away from public social security… to private contracting in the United States and the United Kingdom.” But there is concern among European mutual insurance companies about the effects of enhanced solvency regulation, or “Solvency II,” in the EU. As Swiss Re reports:
Small mutual insurers in particular are concerned that compliance with new measures could create a financial, administrative and operational burden that impairs their ability to survive. Regulators appear alert to the possible unintended consequences and emphasize proportionality in implementing the new prudential and governance regimes, but there is still considerable uncertainty attached to what that means in practice.
In short, most Muslims living in the West greatly need life insurance and retirement savings plans, but often have great difficulty obtaining them in a Shari’ah compliant manner depending on their country of residence, employer(s), and the effects of new insurance regulations.
3. Property-Liability Insurance
Property insurance provides coverage against risks to property such as fire, theft, and water damage, and is divided into two types. The first specifies the perils covered under the policy, whereas the second is open to all perils unless specifically excluded. The most common exclusions in the latter type include damage resulting from earthquakes, nuclear incidents, terrorism, war, and so forth. Property insurance is often required by creditors to finance home, auto, and other private or commercial purchases to protect their interests in case of property damage. Liability insurance includes auto liability (whether private or commercial), medical malpractice, product and other liabilities, many of which are also legally required. Once again, the main question from an Islamic perspective is whether property and liability insurance are risk-sharing (and thus Shari’ah compliant) or impermissible risk-trading.
Fortunately, there are many risk-sharing alternatives in most Western countries for property and liability insurance. In the U.S., for example, State Farm enjoys the largest market share of all companies and is a mutual insurance firm. As Graham and Xie point out:
Mutual firms tend to focus more on personal lines of insurance than commercial ones. Mutuals dominate stock firms in homeowners insurance and represent about half the market in private passenger auto physical damage insurance. Mutuals also have expanded their business from traditional hazards to new risks, such as medical malpractice insurance. Compared with stock firms, the mutuals have much smaller market share in product liability, workers’ compensation, other liability, and reinsurance. These lines are more complex, more capital demanding and need more professional services than standard personal insurance and commercial auto insurance. Because of their limited access to capital markets, mutuals have restrictions to raising new capital when large unexpected losses occur.
There are even takaful home insurance companies in the U.S. such as Zayan Takaful, and AIG (American International Group) takaful windows in various countries offered through AIG subsidiaries.
Mutual insurance companies are not as dominant in the U.K. compared to the U.S., since there is only one mutual company among the top ten insurance companies. Nevertheless, there are also takaful insurance options for Muslims in the U.K., and a recent study of the demand and supply of takaful insurance by Coolen-Maturi concludes that the “findings presented in this paper would encourage more banks in the U.K. to develop takaful products to target the rapid increase in Muslim populations in the U.K. and increase the demand for Islamic insurance products.”
In France, the overwhelming majority of mutual insurance companies are in the property and casualty sector, and Arslan Bendimerad recently investigated how to enable takaful within the French regulatory framework. Given the growing population of Muslims in Europe, takaful alternatives are likely to increase throughout the region. In the meantime, Muslims in the West who buy property and liability insurance from mutual insurance companies are only faced with the issue of how these companies manage their investments, and whether or not such investments are Shari’ah compliant, returning us to previous discussions. If one maintains that a fiat currency is not a ribawi good, then property and liability insurance does not pose a problem for Muslims living in the West, since risk-sharing alternatives are readily available, whereas life insurance and retirement savings plans do pose major challenges as discussed in the previous section, and health insurance challenges vary on a country by country basis as discussed at the beginning of this portion of the paper.
III. Bio-ethical Challenges
Muslim Americans and Europeans face a wide variety of bioethical questions (as do Muslims throughout the world). In fact, nearly 11% of Muslim Americans are physicians (and other medical professionals), making these questions urgent from not only a consumer point of view, but also a matter their ethical medical obligations. American imams are therefore often bombarded with questions from both points of view. Bioethical questions range from issues related to the beginning of life, such as sperm and egg banks, various forms of artificial insemination, surrogate motherhood, and so forth, to issues related to the end of life, such as continuing life support systems when an individual is comatose, determining when an individual is brain dead, and everything in between—markets for organ donations and transplants, blood banks, plasma banks, and so forth. These bioethical questions are so wide-ranging that they require a separate conference to treat adequately.
But suffice it to say in the context of this paper on economic challenges that these issues carry significant financial implications and temptations for Muslims living in the West. For example, men can earn up to $1,000 a month donating sperm, and women can earn much more donating eggs. The same applies to physicians who practice in these areas, mutatis mutandis. Since such noxious markets do not exist in the Islamic world (at least not legally), Muslims do not face the same temptations to participate in them (or at least not as often).
When “everything is for sale,” markets may corrupt and degrade the very goods that are being marketed. As Michael Sandel points out:
That’s because markets don’t only allocate goods; they also express and promote certain attitudes toward the goods being exchanged. Paying kids to read books might get them to read more, but also teach them to regard reading as a chore rather than a source of intrinsic satisfaction. Auctioning seats in the freshman class to the highest bidders might raise revenue but also erode the integrity of the college and the value of its diploma. Hiring foreign mercenaries to fight our wars might spare the lives of our citizens but corrupt the meaning of citizenship.
Degradation in this context means treating something:
in accordance with a lower mode of valuation than is proper to it. We value things not just ‘more’ or ‘less,’ but in qualitatively higher and lower ways. To love or respect someone is to value him/her in a higher way than one would if one merely used [them].
Central to this argument “is the idea that goods differ in kind; it’s therefore a mistake to value all goods in the same way, as instruments of profit or objects of use.” Accordingly, when we decide that certain goods may be bought and sold, we decide, at least implicitly, that it is appropriate to treat them as commodities, as instruments of profit and use.
Gambling and other forms of risk-trading are also degrading in this sense, thereby destroying a sense of community and cooperation for the common good, whereas risk-sharing has the opposite effects. This is a common thread between Islamic prohibitions against risk-trading discussed in the preceding section and the prohibition of noxious markets in reproduction and other sectors of the medical market. In short, both represent degrading forms of exchange.
The question that emerges in this context is whether risk-sharing and other wholesome forms of non-degrading exchange consistent with Islamic economic law will be sustainable in the West over the long-term in the face of degrading production and exchange processes that dominate these societies. From an Islamic point of view, the root cause of Western economic and other ailments is ultimately a mechanistic and materialistic worldview, with a scope of scientific inquiry reduced to the point of near absurdity, which generates scientific, technological, political, economic and other social structures that do violence to man and nature, by ignoring nearly everything necessary to a harmonious and just society. These structural injustices, in turn, generate patterns of economic instability and environmental degradation that manifest themselves in recurring financial and economic crises (sometimes of devastating proportion) on the one hand, and ecological catastrophes of possibly apocalyptic effects on the other. Specific crisis events are nevertheless just the “tip of the iceberg,” because they are manifestations of underlying patterns beneath the surface of the water, generated by dangerously unstable and unsustainable financial and ecological practices, which in turn are generated by underlying series of grossly fallacious scientific speculations and hypotheses (secular cosmological theories, Darwinism, and the Cartesian fallacy of bifurcation), that has produced a secular worldview of the grossest form of Godlessness and ignorance. Indeed, attempting to address any of our current crises through the prevailing secular worldview will at best treat symptoms and at worse exacerbate the root causes of our current ills.
In truth, religious ethics and exchange practices based on Islamic economic law—no matter how helpful in the short term— cannot co-habit with a secular worldview in the long-term. Therefore, deepening our understanding Islamic law can only be a beginning of the solution for Muslims living in the West, not the end. Islamic intellectual sciences must also be brought to bear on production and exchange processes in the context of the Islamic sciences of man and nature, and their relationship to God Almighty. This is crucial not only for Muslims living in the West, but for the Islamic world in its entirety (and indeed all of humanity), to protect ourselves and God’s creation from the recurring crises that increasingly assail us and the entirety of our natural environment. And furthermore, this spiritual and intellectual disequilibrium resulting from the fatally flawed secular worldview now prevailing throughout most of the world (although originating in the West) has fostered the rise of modern forms of violent religious extremism as an misguided reaction to the obvious evils of secular fundamentalism. In a very real sense, both forms of ignorant violence, from colonial economic and military domination to the unforgiveable sins of modern-day khawarij who ruthlessly murder innocent non-combatants, both result from an abysmal ignorance and rebellion against Islam (and all of God’s revealed religious wisdom traditions), and are two sides of the same coin.
By engaging the roots of economic and other problems in the West from a holistic Islamic perspective, Muslims in the West can serve as a bridge between the Islamic world and the West. But to accomplish this, Muslims need help from al-Azhar on the intellectual or ‘aqli sciences, not just the transmitted or naqli sciences, although the latter are clearly essential. Accordingly, this conference addressing the economic challenges of minority Muslims from a legal point of view is just the beginning of what I hope will be the beginning of the challenge of building a sustainable future for both the Islamic world and the West. We therefore humbly request that al-Azhar contribute its full resources to bring the Islamic intellectual and transmitted sciences to bear on the challenges confronting Muslims living in the West.
 See for instance https://www.conceiveabilities.com/surrogates/surrogate-mother-pay.
 See for instance the “Reimbursement” webpage of The World Egg Bank in Phoenix, Arizona at: http://www.theworldeggbank.com/donors/compensation/.
 The 33% figure is from the Pew Research Center’s 2011 Muslim American Survey available online at: http://www.people-press.org/2011/08/30/section-1-a-demographic-portrait-of-muslim-americans/. The 2011 data may not be strictly comparable to the 2014 data in Table 1 showing 64.5% home ownership for Americans as a whole, since Pew data suggest the corresponding figure was 58% in 2011 after the housing market crash of 2007. But whatever the exact percentages, there is clearly an enormous difference between Muslim and non-Muslim American home ownership rates.
 Data selected for EU and North American countries from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_home_ownership_rate.
 See for instance Ozden Sungar, “Household Demand for Islamic Finance in Selected Countries,” European Scientific Journal, June 2013, no. 1.
 Justin Vaisse, “Muslims in Europe: A Short Introduction,” US – Europe Analysis Series, Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings, September 2008. Available online at: https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/09_europe_muslims_vaisse.pdf
 Of course, other factors such as population density and immigrant length of stay can contribute to this divergence in rates of home ownership, but such factors are not sufficient to account for such enormous discrepancies in the U.S., since the Pew data suggest that a large percentage of Muslim Americans are not unlike non-Muslim Americans in these respects as well.
 See for instance the series on Islamic finance published by Wiley, particularly Zamir Iqbal and Abbas Mirakhor, An Introduction to Islamic Finance: Theory and Practice, 2nd Edition (New York: Wiley, 2011).
 For a description of these approaches, see Bill Maurer, Pious Property: Islamic Mortgages in the United States (New York: Russel Sage Foundation, 2006).
 For a critique of these approaches, see Mahmoud El-Gamal, Islamic Finance: Law, Economics, and Practice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).
 Available online at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/danmunro/2013/12/08/universal-coverage-is-not-single-payer-health care/#7895ebe247f5
 Available online at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/danmunro/2014/06/16/u-s-health care-ranked-dead-last-compared-to-10-other-countries/#1a7862071b96.
 The Commonwealth Fund report, “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, 2014 Update: How the U.S. Health Care System Compares Internationally,” available online at: http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/fund-reports/2014/jun/mirror-mirror.
 J. David Cummins and Bertrand Vernard (eds.), Handbook of International Insurance: Between Global Dynamics and Local Contingencies (New York: Springer Science and Business Media, LLC, 2007), p. 258.
 For market shares of various permanent life insurance policies and term life insurance from 2000-2014 in the U.S., see Hiroe Noonan, “Individual Life Sales Trends,” SCORviews, June 2015, p. 2. Available online at: https://www.scor.com/images/stories/pdf/library/SCORviews/sv0615-Noonan.pdf.
 J. David Cummins and Bertrand Vernard (eds.), Handbook of International Insurance, p. 9. This volume is indispensable for its detailed cross-country analyses, and we therefore use its data for illustrative purposes here.
 Ibid, p. 792.
 Panel discussion on “Evolution of Life Insurance Industry Throughout the World,” Record of Society of Actuaries, 1990, Vol. 16, no. 4a, pp. 2374-2375.
 Bernard Vernard, “The French Insurance Market: Background and Trends,” in Handbook of International Insurance, p. 246.
 See for instance Mark J. Browne and Kihong Kim, “An International Analysis of Life Insurance Demand,” The Journal of Risk and Insurance, Vol. 60, No. 4 (Dec., 1993), p. 621, for an overview of previous studies on the effect of Islam on life insurance density.
 “The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050”. Pew Research Center, p. 75. Available online at: http://www.pewforum.org/2015/04/02/religious-projections-2010-2050/ (see bottom of the page for pdf link to full report).
 “Muslim Americans,” Pew Research Center, p. 15. Available online at: http://www.people-press.org/files/2011/08/muslim-american-report.pdf.
 “The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050”, p. 75.
 “Muslim Americans,” Pew Research Center, p. 15.
 “Five Facts About the Muslim Population in Europe,” Pew Research Center Fact Tank, July 2016. Available online at: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/07/19/5-facts-about-the-muslim-population-in-europe/.
 See for instance “Promoting fertility in the EU: Social policy options for Member States,” Library Briefing, Library of the European Parliament, May 21, 2013. Available online at: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/bibliotheque/briefing/2013/130519/LDM_BRI(2013)130519_REV2_EN.pdf.
 Browne and Kim, “An International Analysis of Life Insurance Demand,” The Journal of Risk and Insurance, p. 621.
 “Mutual insurance in the 21st century: back to the future?” Swiss Re, Sigma, No. 4, 2016, p. 1. Available online at: http://media.swissre.com/documents/sigma4_2016_en.pdf.
 J. David Cummins and Bertrand Vernard (eds.), Handbook of International Insurance, pp. 68-71
 Ibid, pp. 212-214.
 Ibid, pp. 307-308.
 Ibid, p. 320.
 Ibid, p. 312.
 “Mutual insurance in the 21st century: back to the future?” Swiss Re, Sigma, No. 4, 2016, p. 1.
 The detailed cross-country analyses offered in J. David Cummins’ and Bertrand Vernard’s Handbook of International Insurance is therefore indispensable for fuqaha to examine the unique characteristics of insurance markets in major Western countries.
 Loftin Graham and Xiaoying Xie, “The United States Insurance: Characteristics and Trends,” in J. David Cummins and Bertrand Vernard (eds.), Handbook of International Insurance, p. 100.
 Ibid, p. 101.
 See http://www.zayantakaful.com.
 See for instance http://www.alhudacibe.com/AlhudaMagazine/Issue-033/takaful02.php.
 Philip Hardwick and Michel Guirguis, “The UK Insurance Industry: Structure and Performance,” in J. David Cummins and Bertrand Vernard (eds.), Handbook of International Insurance, p. 213.
 Tahani Coolen-Maturi, “Islamic insurance (takaful): demand and supply in the UK,” International
Journal of Islamic and Middle Eastern Finance and Management, 2013, Vol. 6 Issue 2, p. 87.
 Bernard Vernard, “The French Insurance Market: Background and Trends,” in Handbook of International Insurance, p. 268.
 Arslan Bendimerad, “Enabling Takaful within the French Regulatory Framework,” GTG/ICMIF/IFTI Joint Takaful Seminar, Cairo, Egypt, March 29-30, 2015.
 Cornell University Survey, April 2002. For a brief overview of these and other surveys, see: http://www.allied-media.com/AM/.
 Michael Sandel, What Money Can’t Buy, p. 9.
 Elizabeth Anderson as quoted by Michael Sandel in What Money Can’t Buy, p. 95.
 Michael Sandel, What Money Can’t Buy, p. 95.
 For an overview of “systems theory” connecting events to underlying patterns, structures, and worldviews, see David Peter Stroh, Systems Thinking for Social Change: A Practical Guide to Solving Complex Problems, Avoiding Unintended Consequences, and Achieving Lasting Results (White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2015).