10 October 2012
Football team Newcastle United cut a controversial £24 Million bound sponsorship deal with moneylender company Wonga. The deal drew immediate criticism from public for the high interest rate that the company charges for the loans. One of the harshest criticisms came from Nick Forbes, the leader of Newcastle City Council, who said: “I’m appalled and sickened that they would sign a deal with a legal loan shark. It’s a sad indictment of the profit-at-any-price culture at Newcastle United. We are fighting hard to tackle legal and illegal loan sharking and having a company like this right across the city on every football shirt that’s sold undermines all our work.”
The criticism over the deal received a new dimension when Muslim Council of Britain, one of the largest Muslim organizations in the UK, joined the debate and warned the Muslim team players that if they wear the lending company’s logo they would be breaching Islamic law. According to Islamic law giving and taking interest is considered to be a major sin. Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, assistant secretary general of the MCB, said: “The idea is to protect the vulnerable and the needy from exploitation by the rich and powerful. When they are lending and are charging large amounts of interest, it means the poor will have short-term benefit from the loan but long-term difficulty in paying it back because the rate of interest is not something they can keep up with. The Islamic system is based on a non-interest-based system of transaction.”
The statement put the four practicing Muslim team players, Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse, Cheick Tiote and Hatem Ben Arfa in a difficult situation, though they have not made any statement on the issue.