I thought this was interesting. Apparently Islam forbids usury. From the BBC article where I read about the whole deal:
In the eyes of Islamic scholars, interest is an excess payment from one party to another which is unrelated to the value of the goods traded.
So, how does a Muslim get a mortgage in a Judea-Christian financial system? A couple of civically-minded banks came up with the following scheme:
Just as with an interest mortgage, the couple move in and begin paying installments to the lender to slowly buy the home over many years.
But the difference is they also pay a rent to the lender who has effectively become their landlord.
A couple of my colleagues pointed out that this was a paper-thin distinction, but isn’t that what much of organized religion is based on. For example, in Ireland, if you want to end your marriage, you can either get it annulled or get divorced (since 1997! What a progressive country!). The former allows you to marry again in the Catholic Church, as it makes it as if the marriage never happened. Divorce is the usual secular business. A subtle difference to us agnostics, but hugely important to the Church. For another example, the Bible belt in the States seems to ably discern between execution and murder.