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Protestants angry over Islamic bonds

Groups fear 'sukuk' tax exemptions will attract extremists

Protestants angry over Islamic bonds
A Muslim mosque in Seoul (Photo courtesy of Korea Islam Federation)
Stephen Hong, Seoul

February 21, 2011

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Protestant groups in South Korea are up in arms over a government move to attract investment from the Middle East by providing tax exemptions for Sukuks (Islamic financial bonds). The issue has become a hot issue since a bill proposing the exemption was introduced during the provisional session of the National Assembly which began on February 18. Local Protestants, including the Christian Council of Korea (CCK) and the Council of Presbyterian Churches in Korea (CPCK), says the bill is favoring Muslims too much and will even encourage Islamic extremists to invest in the country. The CCK says it has already established a special committee against the “Sukuk Law” to organize coordinated protests. Committee members, including Reverend Kiel Ja-yeon, president of the CCK, visited leaders of the ruling Grand National Party (GNP), on February 17 and warned them they work to oust them in national elections if the law is passed by the National Assembly. Reverend Kiel said the law which was “basically drafted wrongly” gives Islam “unparalleled privileges.” The CPCK earlier said the law would encourage Islamic extremist activities in Korea. In a statement last month council voiced fears that money made through these bonds could be used to support Islamic terrorists. The government dismisses these fears and says a tax exemption on Sukuks is in line with legislation covering other foreign currency bonds. A Hankook Ilbo, national daily editorial yesterday, attacked the Protestant groups, calling their protest “hostile opposition against the expansion of Islam.” KO13356.1642

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