CAIRO – A change of British university tuition system to increase fees and implement higher rates of interest on loans is threatening the future of many Muslim students, who might abandon universities for finding the interest system against the principles of their faith.
"Under Islamic law interest is seen as something that is prohibited," a spokesman for the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) told The Independent.
"Previously, the interest was at the market rate of inflation.
“The problem now is that the interest is above the market rate. Because the rate of interest is above the rate of inflation, it is quite blatant usury."
The problem surrounding the future of Muslim students started when the British government announced its plans to increase tuition fees and implement higher rates of interest on loans.
The new system requires graduates who earn above £21,000 to pay interest levels of up to 3 percent above inflation.
Islam forbids Muslims from receiving or paying interest on loans.
Finding themselves in a situation against the principles of their faith, many Muslim students were forced to abandon their university until a scheme is put in place that allows them to finance their degrees in a way that complies with Islamic law.
Mohammed Ahmed-Sheikh, 17, a student at Southfields Community College, was one of them.
The young man said the increased tuition fees will deter him from applying to university next year.
"The fees are the reason I'm having doubts. I'm Muslim and loans are against my religion," he said.
Other students complain they were forced to abandon their religious principles to be able to complete their university studies.
"We've just had to adapt to the British system, or else I couldn't have gone to university," Ahmad Mitoubsi, 21, who graduated from Durham in July, said.
Seeing the pressing issue, the FOSIS said it was working with the National Union of Students (NUS) to formulate a solution.
"It is important that we ensure complete equity for Islamic students but disappointingly the final framework looks unlikely to be in place until the 2013/14 academic year," Usman Ali, the NUS Vice-President for Higher Education, told The Independent.
One idea being considered is a new kind of loan scheme which could see education "rented" in a similar manner to Islamic mortgages, where banks buy properties and then lease them to the customer in a rental agreement.
On the other hand, the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills confirmed that the student groups were in negotiation with their officials.
Yet, they emphasized: "There's still a little way to go."
Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly two million.
There are 400,000 Muslim students in British schools, according to the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).
There are nearly 90,000 Muslim students studying in higher education institutions.
Related Links:UK Universities Urged to Spy on Muslims
Nottingham Univ. Monitors Muslim Students
New Strategy Tightens Noose on UK Muslims
Muslim Students and Education Debts