Raybon Kan is an award-winning stand-up comedian

Raybon Kan: Sonny Bill revives interest in Lent

Blues star Sonny Bill Williams with his taped-over collar. Photo / Getty Images
Blues star Sonny Bill Williams with his taped-over collar. Photo / Getty Images

As Easter delivers unto us another blessed miracle of a long weekend, let's agree that Sonny Bill moves in mysterious ways. His statement this week, written in bandage, on a shirt collar, has prompted all sorts of interpretation, by scholars both religious and secular.

He taped over the BNZ logo on his team jersey, presumably because Western banks charge interest, which apparently is usury, and therefore bad, in Islamic belief. Who knows, maybe he hoped the logo would heal over. (Either that, or it made his collar more comfortable.)

The response against Sonny Bill has been vehement. And it's obvious why. It's not about his contract. It's not about whether he used the banking system to buy the bandage. It's because, by declaring that interest is sinful, Sonny Bill has slapped us all in the face. He's fundamentally attacked every other Kiwi's religion - the housing market.

In this country, when we talk about Lent, we mean how much the bank lent us.
New Zealand is a country where every single person, by peer pressure and osmosis, is an expert in the OCR, RVs, LVRs, whether to fix, float, paint, or wallpaper.

We're like the College of Cardinals when it comes to housing gospel.

More prayers in this country are addressed to the Reserve Bank chairman, a halo around his head, than to any other deity. Teenagers have his picture on their bedroom wall.

Every newspaper, every day, tells of yet another plucky young couple who've bought a house, simply by working hard, renouncing Satan's avocado, and receiving $200K from Mumsy and Dadsy's trust.

And what's the foundation stone of this residential pyramid?
Banks that charge interest, that's who.

So how dare Sonny Bill reject this entire system? How dare he reject us? Has he not heard of capital gain? The unitary plan? It's all very well for Sonny Bill to reject the idea of interest - he can afford to buy with cash. The rest of us need a mortgage.

The rest of us have credit cards, and no amount of bandaging the logo will save us from the minimum monthly.

But let's not look a gift horse in the mouth. Sonny Bill may be doing us a favour. Easter reminds us, that as a secular society, we're totally fine with religion - as long as it gives us public holidays. (Indeed, if only Jesus had taken a few days more to resurrect, imagine how long Easter could be.)

So if we can accept that non-shopping is a thing to roll with, when it's convenient, maybe it's worth taking this opportunity to embrace Islamic banking.

I wouldn't mind a bit of Islamic banking if it means I don't have to pay interest. Granted, I'm a bit vague on how the Islamic bank makes money, but that's not really my problem.

This is the bank's problem, and I assume they've had centuries to think about it. (Even our numbers are Arabic, so maybe they know what they're talking about.)

And why stand up for banks, after all the damage they did with the GFC? I mean, not the BNZ themselves, but you know, The Man.

Recently, I had to pay penalty interest to the IRD, a pagan group, for missing one of their random, intrusive, heathen deadlines. In Western canon, I had no choice but to render unto Caesar.

But what if this penalty interest offended my religion? What if I was particularly devout on this issue? I think there's an opening in the market for Islamic tax accountants.

And if interest is evil, hire purchase goes out the window too. Maybe this is why all those appliance shops offer 48 months interest free: that way, before Noel Leeming and Harvey Norman go to hell, they get the first 48 months off.

And on the flip side, when the victims of hire purchase go to Heaven, they receive 72 brand-new appliances.

Our acceptance of interest is akin to faith. Maybe we accept interest, the same way Americans believe they have to pay through the nose for health care.

Why are interest rates higher in NZ than in Australia? Aren't they the same banks? Why are Australian interest rates higher than those in the UK or America? Why are Japanese interest rates negative? It's entirely possible there is something wrong here.

And much the way that religion, back in the day, informed us that pork needs to be cooked thoroughly, maybe this is religion trying to tell us that interest needs to be cooked out of banking, lest we catch salmonella.

@RaybonKan
www.raybonkan.com

- NZ Herald

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Raybon Kan is an award-winning stand-up comedian

Raybon Kan's books of humour include ‘America on 5 Bullets a Day’ and ‘An Asian at my Table’. Before comedy, he graduated with honours in law and his legal research was published in the New Zealand Law Journal. His TV work includes a documentary in which he trained to be a casino croupier. He once held his breath for 3 minutes and 50 seconds. Visit RaybonKan.com

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