8/21/2005

Lebanon's Daily Star - Saleh Kamel - Saudi businessman tackles task of polishing Islam's image

Sheikh Kamel, who is the chairman of Al-Baraka Banking Group, with assets of more than $12 billion, said that his bank was mistakenly signaled out as one of those suspected banks dealing with terrorist groups.

"But God Almighty proved that all the charges against us were false. The name of our bank was mentioned by mistake by U.S. President George W. Bush," Sheikh Kamel said.

He added that a team from the U.S. Federal Reserve and CIA came to see him after September 11 attacks. They later realized, he said, that Al-Baraka bank and many other Islamic banks were innocent and had nothing to do with alleged funding of terrorist groups.

Al-Baraka and other Islamic banks met with the U.S. secretary of the Treasury in Bahrain to explain how Islamic banks operate.

"These meetings helped clear all the misconception which some Western circles held about Islamic banking," Sheikh Kamel said.

Speaking from his lush apartment in Ain al-Mreisseh in Beirut, Sheikh Kamel passionately talks about the importance of Islamic banks in helping to develop human societies.

Sheikh Kamel, who also controls the majority of the leading television station Arab Radio and Television (ART), said that Al-Baraka bank has grown tremendously over the past few years and now have branches in many countries in the Middle East and Asia.

He added that many banks in the U.S. and Europe started applying some of the Islamic banking principles such as fiduciary laws and other types of Islamic products.

"Islamic banks have total assets of more than $300 billion and the future of these banks looks very bright as many central banks began to embrace some of the Islamic banking principles."

Against this backdrop, Sheikh Kamel decided to organize two important meetings this month in Sharm al-Sheikh, the scene of the latest terrorist bombing that killed dozens of people, to try to dissipate the stereotypes about Islam and show its true image.

The first meeting, which is scheduled for August 20, will gather the 57 member states of Islamic Chamber of Commerce and will be fully devoted to the subject of terrorism.

"The chamber of commerce members felt that Sharm al-Sheikh is a right place to hold the meeting in order to tell the world that Egypt is still a safe place to visit and do business," Sheikh Kamel said.

The second meeting will be held on August 21 and will group more than 50 Muslim scholars and respected religious figures.

Both meetings will issue strong condemnation of all terrorist acts in the world and will clearly point out that those who carry out suicide acts against innocent people will not go to heaven.

Sheikh Kamel said that Al-Baraka bank has recently created a management fund that controls more than $200 billion.

He added that the Islamic investment fund will finance any project that respects Islamic principles.

The Daily Star - Business Articles - Saudi businessman tackles task of polishing Islam's image

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