Muslim students demand interest-free alternatives to student loans

Muslim students urged the government to keep its promise to offer interest-free, Islam-compliant student loans, as it revealed that nearly 100,000 students had dropped out or self-funded their studies due to a lack of funding. alternatives.

A coalition of MP Stephen Timms, Lord John Sharkey and various charities and Muslim organizations – including Muslim Census, National Zakat Foundation and Islamic Finance Guru – called on the prime minister to provide alternative funding to students by September 2022.

In Islam, paying interest – or “riba” in Arabic – on loans is considered ineligible, making it difficult for many British Muslims to pursue higher education without regard to their religious beliefs.

Currently, student loans from 2012 are subject to interest rates dependent on inflation and income.

MP Stephen Timms, Lord John Sharkey and Muslim representatives and activists come to 10 Downing Street to apply for interest-free student loans.

(Sadiq Dorasat / The Independent)

An interim study published by Muslim Census last week found that nearly 10,000 Muslim students per year have not attended university or have self-funded their studies since 2012, due to the lack of Alternative Student Finance (ASF).

Among those students is Annesa Mariyam, who gave up an interest-bearing loan in 2014 and has struggled considerably since. She said The independent: “I could not betray my faith and my beliefs – the same beliefs of a large population in England – and take out the interest rate loan. I couldn’t go to college.

“I must have suffered the consequences of working as an unqualified teacher in an underfunded private school, being paid considerably less because I was unqualified, but I expected her to do the same. work and have the same knowledge of the subject.

“Fortunately, I have now found a way to enter the tech industry with self-study and the help of an apprenticeship.”

Other students, like Hana Yousuf, also chose not to go to college because of interest rate loans. She said: “I dropped out of sixth because I know I couldn’t get a student loan, so I didn’t see the point in doing my A-Levels.

She then undertook an apprenticeship and has since completed levels 4 and 5 of her education and training diploma, which is equivalent to her first and second year of college. But, for her last year of university, she finances it herself.

“I’ve saved all my money over the past four years to help pay for my final year of college, but I’ll always be working alongside my studies to support myself and be able to pay for the rest of my gap year.

Ms Yousuf wanted to study psychology first and said, “If I had had the choice, I probably would have chosen a different field, but I had to choose the cheapest option.”

Amina Madaci is currently taking a year off to give herself time to decide whether or not to take out a loan. She said: “I have kept my options open, but if the government does not introduce interest free loans it puts me in a strange financial situation because it means I will have to balance a large amount of work with education. “

In a 2013 speech then Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Never again should a Muslim in Britain feel unable to go to college because he cannot get it. a student loan simply because of their religion.

In 2013, then Prime Minister David Cameron pledged alternative student loans to make the university more accessible to Muslim students.

(AFP via Getty Images)

As a result, a framework was developed in 2014 by government officials and Islamic financial advisers, but the plans were unsuccessful.

In the House of Commons, Mr. Timms said: “Eight years ago the government made a commitment to introduce alternative student loans. Promise still not kept, preventing large numbers of Muslims from entering higher education

“The interest of Riba is forbidden in Islam, as it was in Christianity until the Middle Ages. Some young Muslims postpone college until they have saved up to pay their tuition fees. Some, with heavy hearts, take out a loan and feel bad forever. Others don’t attend at all – this is the reality of young British Muslims today.

Universities Minister Michelle Donelan responded, “We will provide an update on alternative student funding as we conclude the post-18 education and funding review.”

This update is expected in November.

Sadiq Dorasat, co-founder of Muslim Census, said “it is clear that this question is very important to Muslims” because their survey received almost 40,000 responses when they would normally expect a few thousand.

Regarding his hopes for the government’s response, Mr Dorasat said: “First of all, we want there to be recognition of the impact of the delay as more than 100,000 people have been severely affected over the past nine years. last years.

“Second, ideally we want dates and plans for implementing an AAF so people can start planning for their future. “

Ms Madaci, who hopes to study English Literature, said: “For others, where it’s not a problem for them, it would definitely put them at an advantage over me in terms of academic performance and even basics like mental health and wellness. being.

“I really think having ASF would help so many people and university attendance rates would thrive. I speak on behalf of many, many others that I know who are also in a situation very similar to mine.


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