Toon's Muslim players told wearing Wonga-sponsored shirts infringes Sharia law
Newcastle United’s Muslim players have been warned that wearing the club’s shirt with the logo of new sponsors Wonga on the front could infringe Sharia law.
The Muslim Council of Britain’s (MCB) intervention is the latest batch of criticism the club has received since signing a four-year £24 million sponsorship deal with the short-term loan company on Tuesday that will also see the club’s ground revert to its long-standing title of St James’ Park.
There is nothing illegal about Wonga’s enterprise, but the firm’s charge of 4,214 per cent APR on its internet-based payday loans has been criticised by local MPs, consumer groups and trade unions.
Newcastle’s starting eleven against Manchester United contained four practising Muslims, Demba Ba, Papiss Cissé, Cheick Tioté and Hatem Ben Arfa.
Under Sharia law, a Muslim is not allowed to benefit from lending or receiving money from someone, which means that earning interest is not allowed. Muslims comply by interest not being paid on Islamic savings, current accounts or Islamic mortgages.
Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, assistant secretary general of the MCB, told the Independent: “There are two aspects to this. 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.
“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.”
Frédéric Kanouté, the former West Ham striker, refused to wear the logo of gambling website 888.com when he played for Seville in La Liga because of his religious beliefs. The club allowed him to play games in an unbranded shirt although he had to wear the logo on his training equipment.
“Freddie was allowed to wear a top without the 888.com and that is a reasonable request to be made by the player,” added Mogra. “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.”
Football Association general secretary Alex Horne expressed reservations about the deal. “The Football Supporters’ Federation of Britain told us in no uncertain terms it’s not appropriate, [Sunderland non-executive vice-president] David Miliband has told us he does not think it is appropriate,” Horne 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.”
From the Daily Telegraph