Amid the continuing migrant crisis in Europe, an Austrian bank is to introduce Sharia-compliant accounts for the country’s growing Muslim population.
BAWAG PSK will launch the accounts in Vienna next month, allowing customers to conduct their banking according to Islamic law.
Sharia banking prohibits charging interest, as well as transactions with companies that invest in gambling, alcohol or pornography.
It also does not allow buying homes on interest. Instead, the bank purchases the house and resells it to the customer who pays in regular instalments.
Claudia Lemlihi, head of marketing, said that the bank would launch a new current account that instead of charging or paying interest would charge a fixed fee. She added that the account, named ‘Amana’, was tailored specifically to the needs of Muslims living in Austria.
Austrian paper Kleine Zeitung says Islamic banking is growing worldwide, with the amount of money invested in Islamic financial products growing to around three billion euros by 2018.
There are now an estimated 600,000 Muslims living in Austria, making up seven per cent of the population.
Some had come over the past few decades, fleeing conflict in the Balkans in the 1990s, but last year saw a huge rise in immigration from the Middle East as Austria was caught up in the European migrant crisis.
Figures released in November showed the country’s population growing at a rate of 60,000 a year thanks to mass immigration, with 1.5 million residents born abroad, thus making up a sixth of Austria’s population.
The country’s leaders seemed especially slow to stem the migrant tide, with chancellor Werner Faymann initially comparing the idea of building a border fence to Nazism.
However, the growing numbers meant the government eventually had to change its tone, with interior minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner saying: “A fence is not a bad thing. Anyone who has a house, has a garden and a fence.”