Islam and usuryby John H. CooneyNews Weekly
, July 24, 2010
Mr Bill Muehlenberg may have been a bit hard on Islamic banking ("Australia set to accommodate Islamic sharia finance", News Weekly
, June 26).
For, historically, usury is something that Jews, Christians and Muslims have all proscribed in the strongest language. Indeed, the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle also objected to the practice.
In the 15th century, St Antoninus, archbishop of Florence, then the banking capital of Europe, declared that "usury ... is the harlot of Apocalypse 17. ... Other sins only last a certain time, the sinner does not remain continually in the act of adultery or murder. But usury ever breaks and consumes the bones of the poor, night and day ... the work never ceases".
In the late 18th century, Jeremy Bentham came to the defence of usury using secular argument. Yet, within 100 years, Sir James Stephens, a judge of the English high court, had cause to deplore "the decay of the moral and religious objections to usury".
The recent global financial crisis, which certainly broke and consumed the bones of many poor people, suggests that there may well be some place for a review of the moral and religious objections to usury.John H. Cooney,