A Rabbi, a Priest, and an Imam
Protest usury in London
A British group called London Citizens has started a campaign to persuade Britain and the United States to outlaw usury—the group wants a law that prohibits interest rates over 8 percent. And to launch it, they have organized a priest, an imam, and, yes, a rabbi to deliver copies of the New Testament, the Koran, and the Torah to the Royal Bank of Scotland’s chairman today. Why all three? “Any anti-usury campaign that does not involve Jews risks becoming an anti-Semitic campaign,” explains London Citizens activist Maurice Glasman. (Because levying interest was for centuries forbidden to Christians, money-lenders were invariably Jews, and condemning usury has long been a coded way of condemning Jews.) Guardian economics columnist Jonathan Freedland does a nice job of explaining how “extortionate, exploitative borrowing”—U.S. consumer debt has risen 733 percent since 1980, when outgoing President Jimmy Carter signed a repeal of an anti-usury law—is a social ill that financial institutions will not phase out without being forced to. But he also notes that “[i]t’s refreshing for Jews and Muslims, in particular, to be working together … and for these communities to be engaged in interfaith action rather than another round of earnest tea-sipping in the name of ‘dialogue.’” We find it cheering, too. It’s oddly reassuring that no matter what history, politics, and religion may say, money will always find a way to talk more loudly.