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Shariah Compliant? Major D.C. Complex Won't Lease to Banks, Bars


Qatari investment firm is bankrolling development project

A rendering of the future CityCenterDC in downtown Washington, which will not lease space to banks or bars. (Media credit: Neoscape)

A major development project in downtown Washington will not be leasing space to banks or bars once it's completed, a move that happens to comply with the tenets of Shariah law prohibiting alcohol or collecting interest — the same project a Qatari investment firm is bankrolling.

In April, the Washington Times reported the Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Company put up $700 million to fund the CityCenterDC project, six blocks from the White House and slated for completion in late 2013.

A New York Times article last week reported real estate companies Hines Interests and Archstone decided they would not lease space in the complex to banks or to "retailers whose primary business involves selling alcohol."

Even before the Qatari investors became involved, Hines and Archstone determined that leasing to banks would not help them create lively shopping streets, Mr. Alsup said. But as it happened, their hesitancy on bank branches meshed with the policies of their financial partners, who adhere to the restrictions of Shariah, or Islamic law, including the ban on collecting interest. Restaurants will be able to serve liquor, but retailers whose primary business involves selling alcohol will not be allowed, Mr. Alsup said.

The Washington City Paper took notice of this, with real estate reporter Lydia DePillis writing:

[B]anks aren't all that great for a city streetscape, and it's admirable that they planned to forego such a dependable and high-rent-paying tenant. It's less advantageous, though, to not have business devoted primarily to selling alcohol. CityCenterDC is unlikely to be plagued by liquor stores, but it could definitely use a few places to be out at night drinking without getting a full dinner. Could Qatari money turn CityCenterDC into more of a black hole than the last piece of the puzzle in a living downtown?

On Friday, Salon writer Alex Pareene ribbed the news, and predicted an "overblown right-wing outrage."

Shariah law, a stone's throw from the U.S. Capitol. I am assuming the Times just neglected to mention that in addition to banning bars from the complex, all women will be required to wear the niqab, and obviously all infidels will be murdered, while shopping at the Apple store or whatever ends up there. And no dancing!

Pareene said he was surprised it hadn't attracted more conservative interest, or that "Pamela Geller hasn't written a lengthy screed about it" on her blog, Atlas Shrugs.

Geller took up the issue Sunday:

Imposing religious restrictions on public property violates DC's Human Rights Act. Not to mention violation of the separation of church mosque and state (though under Islam, mosque is state).

Below is a promotional video from CityCenterDC's developer:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/v/Ktagk5xukPE?version=3&hl=en_US expand=1]

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