Shareholder activism is rare in Islamic finance but as Ciara Lee reports wealth manager Bashar Qasem is staking out new territory as the most outspoken voice among Muslim investors in the United States.
Fund manager Bashar Qasem is proving to be a leading voice among Muslim investors in the U.S. The Virginia resident was the only Islamic representative among shareholder advocates to send a letter protesting President Trump's travel ban in February. It's just one of a number of issues Qasem has taken on since Trump's election win. He wants to push back on executive orders that have reversed Obama-era policies on banking regulation and climate change. ISLAMIC FINANCE FUND MANAGER AND PRESIDENT OF AZZAD ASSET MANAGEMENT, BASHAR QASEM, SAYING: "I can't imagine just sitting and being silent, seeing these things that I can really help. think this is one of the essence of investing and money. You're responsible, after all. I mean, it's not just like you can just make money and just forget about it and live at the moment, exploit the moment to the fullest enjoyment. But you have to be considerate about, considering about, you know, the people around you, the relations, the community, the issues that can affect others." But is it a risk mixing business and politics? Some say the two are already intertwined. (SOUNDBITE) (English) GLOBAL FINANCIAL ECONOMIST, COMMERZBANK, PETER DIXON, SAYING: "I mean if investors feel sufficiently strongly enough that there are certain policies that they feel that they don't want to be part of and an investor is offering them an alternative, then I think they are totally entitled to take that stand. But there will be issues when governments really don't like the alternative investment policies put forward by certain people." Qasem's firm Azzad is also taking on Google parent Alphabet to adopt "Holy Land Principles". The case could mean U.S. companies doing business in Israel have to hire more Palestinian Arabs. Qasem says his clients - most of whom are Muslim and about half of whom are immigrants - seem to welcome his growing public role.