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Papiss Cisse and Wonga – Do You Have To Be A Muslim To Back Him?

8 years ago
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Papiss Cisse isn’t the most popular of footballers at the moment amongst Newcastle United fans, judging by comments on Twitter and elsewhere.

His crime? He doesn’t want to help promote a company that he feels exploits the poorest people in our society.

Some fans can’t understand how that can be more important than Newcastle’s pre-season plans but history is littered with examples of sportsmen standing up for their beliefs and they are generally viewed more favourably in the years after the dispute than at the time of their intransigence – Muhammed Ali being the most notable case, after he was castigated in the USA for refusing to join the Vietnam war. Cisse is no Muhammed Ali, but he is entitled to draw a line over what he thinks is acceptable to him on moral grounds and it isn’t his problem that others have different standards.

Cisse has been accused of being a hypocrite because he happily wore a Virgin Money logo last year whereas he has a problem with Wonga. Suddenly, everyone is an expert on Sharia Law and there doesn’t seem to be any rational thought over the difference between the two firms.

Other Muslims in the Newcastle team don’t have a problem, so why should Papiss? Guess what? Muslims are just like everyone else and they have different views over what they consider to be palatable and what isn’t. There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ and, whilst they share basic ideological beliefs, there are massive differences between how each one practises his religion. Virgin Money is a money lender, it’s true, but to suggest that it is the same as Wonga is like saying that driving at 80mph on the motorway is the same as driving 130mph, blind drunk.

Cisse obviously could stomach Virgin Money but not Wonga and many non-Muslims (& Newcastle United fans)  feel exactly the same way.

Cisse is contractually obliged to wear whatever shirt Newcastle United want him to so it remains to be seen how far this goes. Will they begin to fine him unless he relents, or will they simply sell and move on? I suspect the latter.

Regardless of that, it would seem that the club is backing their sponsor over the player and the ultimate conclusion that must be drawn is that Wonga are now effectively dictating transfer policy. How do Newcastle fans feel about that? I know I’m not too chuffed, especially when you consider that Wonga’s business practices are actually illegal in most of Europe and the USA and probably will be here as well once regulation is introduced to ban them.

Wonga will be in the news a lot over the next few years and their association with Newcastle United will not make for happy reading. Not for the first time, Newcastle’s management hasn’t looked beyond the fairly obvious long term issues and has chased the fast buck and history be damned.

As soon as the deal was signed with Wonga, it was clear that there would be an issue with those who had a problem with the ethics of this lamentable firm – whether they are Muslim or not. The weird thing is that Newcastle United has led the way in terms of making people of faith feel welcome at the club – they have introduced a prayer room and have been genuinely enlightened in their approach to foreign players’ customs.

It just doesn’t make any sense to go to such great lengths in one area, then dig your heels in by backing a dubious outfit like Wonga.

By all accounts Papiss Cisse is a thoroughly good man and he uses his position as a footballer to help those less fortunate than himself. Yes, he gets paid a lot, but there are many in the Premier League who are well compensated for their efforts but who couldn’t give a monkey’s chuff about those less fortunate than themselves – being a Muslim is far more about social responsibilities than it is about blowing people up, believe me. Those who suggest that £40K a week should be enough to suppress his principles, says more about themselves than anything else. He isn’t a prostitute.

Newcastle fans can go one of two ways, here. They can voice their anger at Papiss Cisse and claim he is a hypocrite by trying to get to grips with what he should he doing in all areas of his life as a Muslim, or they can back him and use this as a reason to reclaim the club from companies like Wonga.

They don’t want to see protests in favour of United’s star striker, trust me. If football is all that matters to you, it should be noted that, without Cisse’s goals, Newcastle United would be playing Championship football this year but I hope there is more to our fans than just that.

Newcastle United represents our City and our people. You don’t have to be Muslim to back Papiss Cisse over Wonga.

You can follow Waseem on Twitter @WShak1

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