A member of the House of Lords in the United Kingdom, Lord Sharkey, has criticized the government for failing to introduce a student loan system that Muslims can access, thereby systematically depriving them of a university education. Lord Sharkey pointed out that the government’s failure to act was excluding British Muslims. This comes after a seven-year-old promise made by former UK Prime Minister David Cameron in 2013 that “never again should a Muslim in Britain feel unable to go to university because they cannot get a student loan – simply because of their religion.”
In the UK, interest-bearing loans are provided to help students pay for university. In 2014, the government pledged to provide an alternative that would allow Muslims to take loans that do not compromise their religion. Specifically, they committed to “the introduction of a Sharia-compliant Takaful Alternative Finance product” available to everyone. However, the promise has gone unfulfilled, and there is still no Sharia-compliant student product available.
The government’s failure to introduce an alternative financing system was described as inexplicable by a senior British politician with direct knowledge of the issue. The politician questioned why it had taken seven years to do something about it, while a Takaful system to assist with buying houses was rolled out in under a year. They concluded that it was discrimination against the Muslim community.
Estelle Clarke, a student finance campaigner, attributed the government’s failure to being “indifferent” to the plight of students. She added that their inaction suggested systemic discrimination against certain students on the grounds of their religion, and that the government was indifferent to this discrimination.
As it stands, the astronomical price of university education in the UK means that British Muslims have no good options when it comes to deciding their future after finishing school. The cost of a university education is around £20,000 ($27,800) per year, which makes it almost impossible for students to come up with £60,000 upfront to pay for their degree without taking loans. When assuming that a Muslim student would not compromise their religion, they are left with the choice between paying for the entirety of their education upfront or not going to university.
In the end, most Muslim students decide to take the loan, but they are committed to paying it off in full as soon as possible because they consider it sinful. This is a predicament that thousands of young and ambitious Muslims in the UK have suddenly been confronted with, with teenagers across the country preparing their university applications.
In conclusion, the UK government’s failure to provide Sharia-compliant student loans to Muslims is a matter of grave concern. With students already grappling with the astronomical cost of university education, this is an additional burden that further deprives them of opportunities. The government must act fast to fulfill its promise of introducing a Sharia-compliant Takaful Alternative Finance product to ensure that all students, regardless of their religion, have equal access to higher education.