A Canadian Islamic financial institution is launching Canada's first "halal-approved" credit card this month and will also offer it to US Muslims by year end, its president told AFP on Tuesday. The iFreedom Plus MasterCard meets the requirements of Sharia law, which prohibits usury, by being prepaid and therefore interest-free, said Omar Kalair, president of Toronto-based UM Financial.
"Trade is allowed, but usury is not," he explained.
A similar card is already available in Britain, but nowhere else in the West, he said.
Until now, devout Muslims in Canada have either had to do without credit cards or paid off the balance each month to avoid interest charges that go against their faith.
Three Islamic finance experts said in a statement the card "complies with Islamic Laws and Muslims can avail of this product."
Of course, non-Muslims may want one too, Kalair said.
Benefits include no monthly fee, no transaction fees and discounts on flights with Etihad Airways, which flies from Toronto to Abu Dhabi.
According to a 2001 census, there are 580,000 Muslims living in Canada. Kalair estimates the number is now one million.