UK mosque accepts bitcoin and Ether donations for Ramadan
A benchmark of sorts: The first mosque in the UK to accept cryptocurrency in time for Ramadan.
Shacklewell Lane Mosque in the UK now accepts bitcoin and Ether donations, it recently announced. It's the first religious institution in the UK to announce this, but might not be the first religious institution to do so anywhere – plenty of churches would doubtless take bitcoin if offered.
The mosque is accepting the donations for Ramadan zakat, the religious tradition of charitably giving away 2.5% of one's wealth during the holy festival.
Many are seeing the news as a further sign of softening attitudes towards cryptocurrencies among the world's Muslim population, after some suggested that bitcoin might be prohibited under religious law as an unbacked currency.
When cryptocurrency prices leapt upwards in April, many publications took the ludicrous leap of attributing it to one guy in Indonesia speculating that bitcoin could be halal. A far more likely explanation is that it was upwards price manipulation for the purposes of stop hunting, similar to the movements which saw prices drop during Consensus NYC.
In fact, far from being some kind of breakthrough, mosque representatives said they were doing so in response to overwhelming demand from overseas.
"We are trying to appeal to a wider audience with the new money,” Erkin Guney, the chairman of the board of trustees, told The Hackney Gazette. "It’s big in the Islamic world, and we have set up a platform for wealthier Muslims outside our community to support and donate to our mosque."
The experts at the mosque have their own interpretation.
"Any money or currency is neither halal – permissible – nor haram – impermissible," said Zayd al Khair, a religious adviser at the mosque. "Guidance is about the value which it represents. If money is transacted in a lawful manner then it is halal."
Of course there are no real certainties of cryptocurrency or money of any kind being entirely transacted in an entirely lawful manner, so it's really just taken as a matter of faith. In the end, the normalisation of cryptocurrency donations to charitable causes of all kinds will be good news for charitable organisations who can cast a much wider global net when fundraising. It will also be good news for money launderers, who can enjoy a new avenue for moving funds.
"We do not always know the source of cash donations," al Khair said, "but we take these in good faith too."
Much like other Islamic home loans and other specialised Islamic financing solutions, believing something to be halal is mostly a matter of faith – and seeking out an ongoing series of expert opinions until you find the one you like.
Elsewhere in the isles, the Bank of England has released its findings on the feasibility of central bank digital currencies.
Disclosure: At the time of writing, the author holds ETH, IOTA, ICX, VEN, XLM, BTC and NANO.