First bank under Islamic law opens in Syria

Syria on Monday opened its first Islamic bank - one that operates exclusively on the basis of Shariah, or Islamic law - with a starting capital of 5 billion Syrian pounds (US$100 million). The opening of the Kuwaiti-owned Cham Islamic Bank in Damascus was attended by Syrian Finance Minister Mohammed al-Hussein and Adib Mayaleh, governor of the Central Bank. Adnan Mosallem, head of the Cham Islamic Bank's administrative council, said the bank would start business by offering various financial services in accord with Islamic law. The bank will work on the principle of sharing profits and losses, he said, adding that branches in other Syrian cities were planned. Islamic banks ban investments that pay interest - deemed usury in Islam - or sponsor alcohol, tobacco, pork, gambling or weapons. Banks make money using a system of profit-sharing from returns on approved investments.