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U.S. ECONOMY > American Industries > Banking and Investment > Beliefs and Banking

Beliefs and Banking

pizza delivery
An interest-free finance agreement with a neighborhood development center in St. Paul, Minnesota, enables this Muslim man to help pay for a van and equipment for his food delivery business that caters to homes and businesses in the Twin Cities area. (Richard Marshall/St. Paul Pioneer)
workman's comp
Muslim law prohibits giving or receiving interest, so buying or selling property may be difficult. This young man, a homeowner, waits to discuss some business information from his father in East Africa by e-mail. (John Doman/St. Paul Pioneer)

Sheryl Jean is a business reporter with the Pioneer Press, a newspaper in St. Paul, Minnesota. Copyright 2001 PioneerPlanet / St, Paul (Minnesota) Pioneer Press /

Abdirizak Bille of Minneapolis, a practicing Muslim, faced a quandary when he decided to start a small bus transportation service. Bille needed a loan to get the business going, but traditional Islamic law prohibits him from paying interest, or reba, on debt.

Until recently, options have been limited for Muslim entrepreneurs like Bille. But in May, because of new efforts by Twin Cities groups, Bille was able to obtain interest-free financing for his firm, which transports immigrants to English classes.

Bille financed a 34-person school bus with $15,000 borrowed from the Neighborhood Development Center in St. Paul. The group built a $2,000 profit into his repayment plan.Bille pays no interest, and the center still earns an annual return because the profit replaces interest.

"I prefer to stay out of business than participate with interest," said Bille. Without the alternative financing, he would have needed to save enough money to buy the bus, or try to borrow money interest-free from friends, he said.

Twin Cities Muslims have spent the past year educating government officials, lenders and civic leaders about the need to accommodate Islamic beliefs through alternative financing. Banks say strict regulations have kept them from stepping up to meet the need.

By Sheryl Jean


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