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Muslim students divided over Sharia-compliant loans | Students

MMuslim students are divided over measures taken by the government to introduce Sharia-compliant student loans. While some welcomed the recent announcement by University Minister David Willetts of an open consultation on the question, others feel indifferent or oppose it completely.

Muslim groups lobbied for reform because the tuition hike in 2012 raised hopes that students would take out loans and repay them, with interest, once they got a well-paying job.

The Ministry of Enterprise, Innovation and Skills – which is leading the consultation – says: “We know that some students, whose religious beliefs prohibit taking out a loan with interest, may not be able to take advantage of student loans at because of that. This could make it more difficult for them to obtain a higher education.

“We are exploring the possibility of making an alternative student funding program available in addition to traditional loans. This funding would be Sharia-compliant and overseen by a Sharia advisory committee.”

Humarrah Sheikh, 19, who is preparing for her final A-level exams at Sir George Monoux High School in Walthamstow, north-east London, is against the introduction of a new loan scheme. “It hasn’t been a big deal for me, and I personally think religion should be kept away from this area,” she said.

Sheikh, who hopes to study geology at St Andrews University, says many of his peers aren’t fazed by the question of interest either.

“Most of the Muslim students I know have applied for loans and are planning to go to college. Rather, it is the amount of fees that concerns them the most, as is the case with most of the other students, ”she adds.

Semah Ahmed, 17, who studies at AS levels in Manchester, has little interest in whether the loans are Sharia-compliant or not. “I don’t know anything about Sharia-compliant loans or how they work,” she said, “and I don’t care about the problem.” An Islam-friendly loan model will have little impact on her intention to go to college.

But many other Muslim students will welcome the move because it could remove a barrier to their educational aspirations.

Muslim organizations such as Fosis (the Federation of Islamic Student Societies) say they know many Muslim students who have decided not to go to college due to the new student loan repayment system.

Annesa Maryam from Manchester is one of 40 case studies collected by the Islamic organization last year 1st ethics. She hoped to study pharmacy at the University of Manchester, but was forced to give up her dream.

She said, “My religion should be more of a priority for me than my education. It’s a shame, because only a few years ago [when fees were lower] I could afford to go to college without a loan. There is no way I can afford the amount I need now, coming from a low income background. “

Maryam adds that due to the current loan system, her four younger siblings will not be able to go to college either.

Under the government’s proposed pooling of funds (takaful) model, a special Sharia advisory committee would oversee a fund that would be funded by students repaying money once they have a job and earn. more than a threshold.

Repayments would be set against a benchmark rate equal to that of a conventional student loan. The idea is that such a system would allow students to avoid paying interest, and the bulk of funds generated by repayments would be used for the benefit of future students.

The government has insisted that despite concerns expressed by some commentators, Muslim students will not be better off than their contemporaries under any new program, and their repayments will be in line with those of students who take out traditional loans.

Some mainstream experts, such as Martin Lewis, founder and editor of Money Saving Expert, also supported the introduction of a sharia-compliant system.

Kamrul Islam, 16, is due to take his GCSE next month and is therefore among the age group most likely to be affected by a new loan model.

“I’m concerned about the current student loan system and the interest you would have to pay on it,” he says.

Islam, who lives in Birmingham and is considering a career in IT, recognizes that the current system puts pressure on Muslim students and forces them to make difficult choices.

“I would appreciate a Sharia-compliant model,” he said. But whatever happens, his eyes are on higher education. “If that didn’t happen, then I would probably still go to college with the current system. Even if it’s a fight, it’s for my future.”

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