CAIRO - A new sponsorship deal between a British loan company and Newcastle football team is becoming a headache for the club's Muslim players as their faith bans interest (usury).
There are two aspects to this, Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra, assistant secretary general of the umbrella Muslim Council of Britain, told The Independent on Wednesday, October 10.
We have the rulings of the religious law and we have the individual's choice and decision on how they want to follow or not follow that rule.
Newcastle United has signed a four-year £24 million sponsorship deal with Wonga, a short-term loan company.
But the deal has prompted calls for Muslim players in Newcastle not to wear shirts with the logo of the loans company, which charges 4.214% interest on its internet payday loans, as their faith bans usury.
Newcastle United has four practicing Muslim players; Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse, Cheick Tiote and Hatem Ben Arfa.
The idea is to protect the vulnerable and the needy from exploitation by the rich and powerful, Mogra said.
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, he said.
Islam forbids Muslims from usury, receiving or paying interest on loans.
The new deal resembles a similar situation when Muslim footballer Frederic Kanoute refused to wear the logo of gambling website 888.com with his team Seville because of his Islamic beliefs.
"Freddie was allowed to wear a top without the 888.com and that is a reasonable request to be made by the player," Mogra said, believing that a similar settlement can be reached with Newcastle Muslim players.
"Assuming all four are on the pitch at the same time, if you have seven out of 11 you have sufficient coverage. It is not asking too much, I believe."
The sponsorship deal has also triggered uproar in the sports spectrum in Britain.
I'm appalled and sickened that they would sign a deal with a legal loan shark, Nick Forbes, the leader of Newcastle City Council, was quoted as saying by The Daily Mail.
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.
Alex Horne, Football Association general secretary, was also critical.
The Football Supporters' Federation of Britain told us in no uncertain terms it's not appropriate, he said.
We are talking to the leagues on Friday about it.
If you consider it as in the category of things that are inappropriate for children like gambling and alcohol, it feels like it is in that category to me.
The sponsorship deal has also drawn fire from British lawmakers.
"Some of the richest young men in Newcastle to wear shirts calling on the poorest to go to a legal loan shark," MP Chi Onwurah tweeted
Michael Martin, a lifelong Newcastle supporter and editor of the long-established True Faith fanzine, said the sponsorship deal was "shameful".I really don't understand what the club is about any more."