Many woke up Monday to the news that the Supreme Court voted 7-2 in favor of the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop. This brave soul cited religious reasons for his refusal to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. Like most of you, I was outraged and took to social media to express myself. Suddenly, I was struck by a realization. “But wait,” I thought. “My Islamic faith does not believe in the concept of paying interest on loans!” I wondered if the logic of this ruling could be applied to relieve Muslims from doing something that is expressly prohibited in our religion. Would the Supreme Court have the same sympathy it did for Masterpiece Cakeshop if I refused to pay the interest on my student debt because it is prohibited in my religion?
In Islam, loans and indebtedness are a grave matter. Islam warns against them and urges Muslims to avoid both usury and debt as much as possible.
Here’s what the Quran has to say about interests and debt:
Those who consume interest cannot stand [on the Day of Resurrection] except as one stands who is being beaten by Satan into insanity. That is because they say: Trade is just like interest; whereas Allah permits trading and forbids interest. (2:275-276)
The prophet Muhammad (PBUH) himself cursed ten people involved in the matters of loans and usury:
The one who consumes riba, the one who pays riba, the one who writes it down, the two who witness it, the one who makes it lawful, the one for whom it is made lawful, the one who withholds charity, the one who does tattoos and the one for whom tattooing is done.
The language there is strong and clear — people who have to pay loans with interest aren’t allowed into Jannah or heaven. What, then, does the SCOTUS decision mean to Muslim Americans with student loan debt? This ruling ignores the separation of church and state and rules in favor of protecting a bakery owner’s religious right to discriminate against a same-sex couple. Does this mean it is my religious right to never pay the accrued interest on my government issued student loans? Can I start suing the U.S. Department of Education when I’m denied employment or a lease on an apartment because my credit is ruined from deferring to pay interest on my student loans?
Every payment that is taken out of my account to pay off interest on my student loans brings me closer to Satan’s realm.
The U.S. government holds 90 percent of all student loan debt in the United States. The law states that the federal government can charge over 6.8 percent interest on student loans. Why should Muslim Americans have to choose between our religious beliefs and getting a college education? We are the only group who are unfairly victimized by these lending policies. No other group of Americans are made to choose between publicly-funded education or eternal suffering upon their souls. Are a few thousand dollars of interest payments worth more than the dignity of the human spirit?
Every payment that is taken out of my account to pay off interest on my student loans brings me closer to Satan’s realm. The government should respect the religious beliefs of all of our citizens, including Muslims. So I say to my Muslim brothers and sisters, we should rise up and cease paying interest on our student loans with the goal of pursuing a lawsuit to have our loans discharged from this predatory industry. And to all my non-Muslim millennial brothers and sisters, we welcome you to join us by converting to Islam to avoid paying student loans (no judgment)!
Conservatives think it’s bad enough that a majority of our generation openly identify as socialists. Now imagine if young people started converting to Islam en masse because of their student debt. Maybe that’ll finally get politicians to move on debt-free college more quickly.
The Supreme Court has created a precedent that the government cannot punish a person for choosing to act in accordance with their religious beliefs, in this case, Masterpiece. This means we can use today’s ruling as precedent to stop the government from punishing — through wage garnishments, debt collection, and derogatory marks on credit history — those who choose not to pay interest on their student loans on religious grounds. We can finally gain our freedom from crippling student debt. Who needs student loan forgiveness or tuition-free public colleges? Let’s start a jihad against student loan companies!
Photo credit: Muhammad Rizwan.