| 10.4°C Dublin

Sharia law warning over new Newcastle sponsors

NEWCASTLE United's £24m shirt sponsorship deal with Wonga was engulfed in fresh controversy last night when the club's Muslim players were warned that wearing the new shirts would infringe Sharia law.

The intervention from the Muslim Council of Britain will heap further pressure on the club as it seeks to deflect widespread criticism after unveiling a four-year deal with the short-term loan company.

Of the Newcastle team who took the field against Manchester United on Sunday, four are practising Muslims -- Demba Ba, Papiss Cissé, Cheick Tioté and Hatem Ben Arfa.

Wonga, whose deal begins next season, drew criticism from MPs for the interest levels charged on 30-day loans. If a supporter took out a loan to purchase a £49.99 club shirt, they would have to repay £71.92 after one month -- a rate equivalent to 4,212pc over a year.

The club did its best to offset criticism of the new deal by announcing that the Sports Direct Arena would revert to its original name of St James' Park. Wonga also promised to invest heavily in Newcastle's academy and the club's foundation scheme, which helps 15- and 16-year-olds find work.

Under Sharia law, a Muslim is not allowed to benefit from lending money or receiving money from someone.


This means that earning interest is not allowed. To comply, interest is not paid on Islamic savings or current accounts or applied to Islamic mortgages. Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, assistant secretary general of the MCB, said: "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."