Tim Pawlenty also opposes sharia-compliant teleprompters (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
In 2005, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty accepted a plan by his housing agency to develop a pilot program designed to expand access to state homeownership programs to religious Muslims. As Adam Serwer details, the unique challenge faced by this demographic group is that interest payments are inconsistent with shariah.
To address the needs of this interest-averse population, Pawlenty's housing authority proposed a program to underwrite "shariah-compliant" mortgages. Instead of lending money to the homebuyer and then charging interest while holding the note, under the program, lenders would purchase the home, and then resell it to the borrower at a price equivalent to the total amount that would have been paid with a traditional mortgage. Ultimately, the same amount of money would change hands, but because no interest would be involved, it serve interest-averse populations.
In the proposal, the housing authority wrote that "while not every person of the Islamic faith may select an interest-averse mortgage product, a significant number of recent African and Middle Eastern immigrants would purchase a home if such a product were available." Pawlenty accepted their recommendation and in 2009, the pilot program was unveiled to much fanfare.
Ultimately, there wasn't much demand for the housing authority's program. Although it was available for the entire calendar year in 2009, only three home sales were conducted through it and the pilot program fizzled.
In all, the program seems about as controversial as kosher hot dogs, but because it can be connected with the word "shariah," Tim Pawlenty has freaked out and denounced his own program, denying he had any knowledge that it could be connected with Islam and taking credit for spiking it.
But a Pawlenty spokesman told me that the governor has no intention of defending the program -- and that in fact, he shut it down himself as soon as he learned of it.
"This program was independently set up by the Minnesota state housing agency and did not make any mention Sharia Law on its face, but was later described as accommodating it," the spokesman, Alex Conant, said. "As soon as Gov. Pawlenty became aware of the issue, he personally ordered it shut it down. Fortunately, only about three people actually used the program before it was terminated at the Governor's direction."
Pawlenty's objection: "The United States should be governed by the U.S. Constitution, not religious laws," Conant said.
First of all, it's fucking hilarious that Team T-Paw thinks it would be reasonable to cancel a program merely because somebody said it was "described as accommodating" the religious needs of Muslims. But more to the point, Pawlenty accepted the proposal in 2005, when it was explicitly described as doing exactly that. He didn't have any problems with it 2009 when it was rolled out.
I share Adam Sewer's skepticism that Pawlenty actually did spike the program. Lack of interest in it seems to be a fair more plausible scenario, but even if Pawlenty did spike it, that doesn't change the fact that he supported it in 2005 and he had no objections to it in 2009.
Only now that being virulently anti-Muslim is a key job requirement for the GOP presidential nomination is Pawlenty raising a fuss. Which raises another question: if Tim Pawlenty is wiling to throw Muslims under the bus for political gain, what religious or ethnic group will be next?