Absa Goes Ape-Shiite!

This morning I saw something that alarmed me as much as it rankled my sensibilities. While waiting in line to make a bank deposit at an Absa branch, I noticed an advertising poster offering clients “Islamic Banking” which supposedly is “banking the Shari’ah way.” My alarm was, and is, roused by such overt discrimination on religious grounds and the thought of how this can succeed only in polarising rather than reconciling people, something this country has been trying to do since 1994.

My disgust derives from this exercise in triple-whammy sycophantic obsequiousness, first for its unabashed profits-over-principles approach, second for its insidious kowtowing to the baseless and hallucinatory dictates of a group of self-important stuffed shirts (more accurately, “over-filled thawbs”), and third for its tacit thumbs-up to the most evilly bloodthirsty of the world’s big religions.

The question is what prompted Absa to institute this idea. It can hardly be to retain customers, since the bank has operated quite well without such a stratagem and I can find no reports of any mass exodus from Absa by muslims. Perhaps they are trying to attract more customers into the fold as a shield against further woes in these financially troubled times. In that case, it is puzzling that they should focus quite so intently on a relative minority in this country, even one that perhaps has greater per-capita wealth than the national average. The cynic in me is wont to conclude that this ploy is motivated mostly by the Absa board’s collective thought that goes something like, “Hmm, if we are minimally compliant and fake sufficient respect for these towel-heads, there’s a good chance we’ll end up with some of their business. Good plan, let’s do it!”

At any rate, on short reflection, one must at least wonder what particular handbrake on diversity (or inopportunely stultified hiccough of creativity) prevented Absa from at the same time offering also…

  • “Jewish Banking the Mosaic way”
  • “Christian Banking the Jesuit way”
  • “Hindu Banking the Vedic way”
  • “Buddhist Banking the Eightfold way”
  • “New Age Banking the Make-Your-Own-Reality way”

or, for that matter,

  • ETA: “FSM Banking the Saucy way”
  • “Atheist Banking the Delusion-Free way”.

More on Shari’ah banking’s principles, practices and implications:


I have not read through all of the provided links, and I know that I should before asking questions, but I thought I would ask for the quick, simple answer if one exists:

What is the fundamental difference in “Islamic banking”?
Are the funds invested in companies that honor Shariah law? I doubt it.
Sounds like an empty tag to me, which jives with Luthon’s hypothesis about them paying lip service.

I agree that this is a strange approach if they want to poach customers. Besides the religious discrimination, I believe women should be outraged anytime they hear of someone intimating the validity of Shariah law. As a male who happens to believe that women are human, it outrages me when I see this. It is not my only problem with it, but I feel it is the most glaring subset of the fractal wrongness that is Shariah law.

The main differences concern lending policies (admonitions against usury – no religion necessary, just equitable business practices), that wealth on paper must be backed up with tangibles (no religion necessary, just sensible and sustainable business practices), and the exclusion of participation in or support of trade in certain goods like pork, alcohol and arms (some of these are archaic cultural traditions that survive only because of religion while others are matters of individual conscience).

Yes, exactly.


Any business in a country with such a diverse nation of people should go out of their way to operate in a secular manner. I don’t think it will make business sense to try and fracture your services into several little subdivisions to cater for clients wishing to invest in one thing and not another. This is just another symptom of the special privileges, respect and tolerance that religion demands.


Yes indeed, but it gets more basic than that even. If Absa were to implement Shari’ah law fully, they’d have to do several offensive things, among them screening of female staff and clients so as to bar them from the premises if they are menstruating, and requiring them, while on business premises in the presence of males, to wear loose-fitting robes that cover all but their hands and eyes. I can’t see Absa going to such lengths, and that is why the whole thing reeks of self-serving sham.


According tho this report, Sharia law is ready to take over the world. Should this happen, we are all in some serious trouble, because we will not be able to criticize or challenge any of the laws. It’s divine.

I have a few Muslim clients. They told me that the main difference between my bank account and theirs is the fact that, according to their religion, they are not allowed to make money that they did not earn and can therefor not earn interest.

Of course, any bank like ABSA, would love this.

they earn interest, they just dont call it that and hide the calculations.

ask your Muslim friends how borrowing say R1000 works in a sharia loan?

I bet you dollars to donuts that they say its something like this:

the bank gives you the R1000
you agree to pay the bank R1300 within a specified time
if you fail to repay the loan they have the right to demand the money from you through legal means or
by renegotiating the final profit they are entitled to with the loan. ie extending the ammount of debt.

how does they normal loan work?
you borrow a 1000,
you aggree to pay back the loan plus a specified amount of interest over a period of time.

at the end of the day you pay back similar ammounts and for similar reasons.

The problem is that they call the R300 thier profit which they are entitled to under sharia law (they can make a profit, just not visibly calculate interest)

its smoke and mirrors and

Sure, never thought about a loan, but he did say that they don’t earn interest on their cheque account, but I think the bank charges are nil.

You could argue that our charges cancel out the interest as well.

But isn’t catering to the customer’s needs/wants what business is all about? Businesses will pounce when they see an opportunity in the market. Thats the nature of the beast, and it makes the world go round. A business will flex to the whims of its clients.

However, in making its money, the business must also be perceived as doing so in an ethical manner. And who decides what those ethics are but society.

In the case of the Islamic banking offering, I would venture a guess that a minority of customers will welcome the move, and the greatest part of the majority simply won’t care either way. So the offended/ disgruntled few are outnumbered by the minority!

The drift away from secularism, is in my opinion partly due to the respect and tolerance that religion demands, and society returns.


for more info on sharia banking i found the following,


Personally I think the banks are being decididnly secular in creating these sharia banks, its not like ABSA (or any other bank) is doing this on religious grounds, its simply a way for them to get more customers and make more money.

The problem comes in when people dont realize they are being taken advantage of and start to rationalize the institution and thier own behavior. Muslims will see this as “ABSA” submitting to the will of allah, christains see this as ABSA turning to the dark side, the bank merely sees it as a way to get more cookies.

oh also check out