Bloomberg News

NEW YORK - HSBC Holdings PLC's branches in the United States will soon add services that comply with Islamic law, to woo customers among the growing U.S. population of observant Muslims, an executive said.

Islamic law is widely interpreted to bar paying interest on loans or investing in alcohol, pork, or gambling businesses.

By midyear HSBC will announce services including home financing without mortgages, said Iqbal Khan, global head of Islamic finance at London-based HSBC. It will also offer debit cards rather than credit cards, he said.

"It is about affinity marketing,'' Mr. Khan said in an interview.

Such marketing is not new for HSBC. Chinatown branches of the former Honkong and Shanghai Banking Co. offer Chinese-language services and information.

Islamic worship is on the rise in the United States, according to a study released last week by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. It estimated that there are seven million Muslims in the country and said that in the past seven years the number of mosques has risen 25%, to more than 1,200.

HSBC is the No. 3 bank in the New York market and Europe's largest bank by market value. It has more than 430 branches in New York State, eight in Florida, two in Pennsylvania, and three in California.

Muslims have differing views of what kinds of banking services are legal under Islamic law, or sharia; Islamic banks are usually guided by the advice of a sharia board of scholars.

Banks can finance a house without a mortgage by buying it and then selling it at a markup to the customer, who then pays it off in installments that have no interest component.

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