Saturday, 13 October 2012

The MCB, Newcastle and Wonga

BFTF was surprised to see that, according to media reports, the MCB had suggested that Muslim players at Newcastle United Football Club should not wear the logos of the clubs sponsors, Wonga. The article in the Independent states that:
"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."

However, a later press release from the MCB and from Sheikh Mogra explain that, far from going after the players, Sheikh Mogra and the MCB were merely responding to some questions on the Islamic view on loans and interest in Islam from the Independent (respect to commenter Jabbar in the comments section for pointing this out).

As Sheikh Mogra points out:

"We did not contact the Independent. They contacted the MCB by sending a request through an email from Mr Martin Hardy asking for assistance on the issue of financial loans and interest in Islam. I repeat neither I nor the MCB ever contacted the Independent to raise this issue.

The MCB’s media desk then asked me if I was able to help with this request. I said yes and waited for Mr Hardy to contact me. He interviewed me over the phone and I explained to him the position of Islam in relation to interest and the promotion of things which are harmful. He told me what I was telling him confirmed what he had already learned about Islam and interest before contacting me. . He also wanted to know what the Muslim players at NUFC should do about wearing shirts with, their new sponsor’s name. The quotes attributed to me in the article are indeed mine and are all accurate."

The Public Reaction
This story received a lot of coverage in the media (invariably without mentioning that the Mogra's words has been twisted to the point of fracture) and entirelty predictably, many of the readers comments asked why there was a complaint about Wonga when it was, presumably, ok for the players to wear the logos of other companies who charge interest on loans, such as Virgin Money or Northern Rock, or any company that sells alcoholic drinks. Guess Mattersons are also out. So, once again, Muslims are being portrayed as being inconsistent people who demand special treatment - that is not a good thing.

UPDATE 05 Dec 12
Somewhat to BFTF's surprise, received the following from the MCB:
You do raise some important points in your email, unfortunately the interview that Shaykh Mogra did for the Independent was taken out of context and was made to look like the MCB 'intervened' which is totally untrue. Shaykh Mogra, whilst doing the interview only highlighted the Islamic rulings as regards to interests/loans and did not in any way comment specifically on what the players should or should not do. He provided the journalist a general overview, who then turned the story around.
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NB: This story has been heavily modified to add information and improve conciseness since the, at the time very sensible, comments below were received.


  1. This seems to be a poorly researched blog post. Has Ash bothered to actually consult the MCB and see what its side of the story is?

    Newcastle United, and Muslims
    Friday 12 October 2012
    The Facts
    On 12 October, the Independent ran a story headlined "Newcastle's Muslim stars told: Don't play in new 'Wonga' tops". It began "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 story suggested that the Muslim Council of Britain and its Assistant Secretary General Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra had issued this warning. The media has subsequently reported this as fact, even though no warning, or demand was made. The Independent had called Shaykh Mogra to give an overview on Islamic viewpoints on interest, and then went on to ask about the deal.

    Here is Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra's full response.

    Being a body whose constituents make up a diverse collection of Islamic schools of thought, the Muslim Council of Britain does not issue 'fatwas' and makes no demands on anyone, Muslim or non Muslim. It seeks to reflect views amongst British Muslims, and provide a platform to common views held in our community.

  2. Dear Jabbar, thank you for this information. I did search the MCB site at the time but failed to find this press release. Thank you for providing a link to the response, which can be clicked through to read Shaykh Mogra's full comments. These suggest that the Independent was less than open in the way it approached the MCB.

  3. Dear Jabbar, I've modifed the article to, hopefully, make it more accurate. Thanks again for commenting.
    Incidentally, I very often contact the MCB. They never respond.