Between Consumer Demand and Islamic Law: The Evolution of Islamic Credit Cards in Turkey

Friday, October 2, 2015
Timur Kuran


The elimination of interest from financial transactions has been a salient goal of Islamization movements around the world. Its proponents have had to balance this objective, which they claim to draw from Islamic law (Sharia), against consumer demand for convenient products. In general they have opted to accommodate consumer demand, but surreptitiously, using legal ruses to disguise their compromises. Turkey's experience with credit cards offers a revealing case of the obfuscation in question. Having denounced credit cards as un-Islamic, Turkey's Islamic banks have all proceeded to issue credit cards of their own in order to remain competitive with their openly interest-friendly, conventional rivals. With local variations, the Turkish pattern resembles that of other markets where Islamic credit cards have made inroads. In Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates, too, Islamic credit cards function like those of the conventional banks with which they compete for customers. The “Islamic” features of Islamic credit cards amount to branding. Contrary to the claims of their proponents, they do not involve fundamental financial innovations.


Murat Cokgezen and Timur Kuran, Journal of Comparative Economics, July 2015 (online), In Press