01: Several liberal religious groups and denominations in the U.S. have begun to campaign against the use of mineral water. They are critical of water privatization and consider it wrong, or even immoral, to sell a God-given resource only to those people who can afford it, while it is sometimes a scarce resource in arid, poor countries.
The National Coalition of American Nuns, Presbyterians for Restoring Creation, the United Church of Christ and other groups concerned about eco-justice are involved in that campaign. The UCC has produced a documentary, “Troubled Water” (http://www.troubledwatersdoc.com), and has aired it in October 2006 on a number of TV stations.
(Source: Chicago Tribune, Dec. 15)
— By Jean-Francois Mayer
02: A London brokerage branch of the French bank Societe Generale has launched the first Sharia-compliant hedge funds. This initiative reflects a growing interest from the Western financial sector in the huge and growing market of Sharia-compliant investments (estimated by some to reach 500 billion dollars). More and more Arab financial institutions have rules requiring that at least part of their investments be handled according to Sharia law. Meanwhile, Malaysia seeks to become the Islamic financial hub in its region, and a third foreign Islamic bank (backed by investors from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait) will open several branches there in January. The world’s largest Islamic bank, Al Rajhi (Saudi Arabia), is planning to open 50 branches in Malaysia by 2010.
(Source: Financial Times, Dec. 22; Associated Press, Dec. 20)
— Jean-Francois Mayer