Shura Council approves Saudi loan, despite Salafi anger

Heated debate erupted again among the Shura Council's Islamist lawmakers on Monday over a loan from Saudi Arabia. Salafi legislators condemn loans as a prohibited form of usury.

The council ultimately approved the loan agreement for an irrigation and drainage pumps’ plants project between Egypt and the Saudi Fund for Development, despite objections from several members.

MPs attacked Prime Minister Hesham Qandil’s Cabinet and described it as a “government of loans.”

“We reject loans, because citizens need to have dignity. The government should forget about loans and search instead for alternative solutions," stressed Mohamed al-Hanafy Abul Enein, head of the Wafd Party’s parliamentary bloc.

Al-Sayyed Hozayyen, head of the council's agriculture committee, objected to one of the terms of the articles stipulating that the Saudi Fund should take advantage of any new loan obtained. He said that he still has reservations, although the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation said that it is similar to most loan agreements.

Hozayyen criticized other members for not submitting alternatives to the proposal, despite their opposition. Salah Abdel Maaboud, representing the Salafi Nour Party, said the “Cabinet should look for alternatives for loans,” adding that his party still has reservations over loans.

Abdel Maaboud called for having the agreement reviewed by Al-Azhar’s Senior Scholars Authority to declare the stance about loans.

Article 4 of the Constitution stipulates that “Al-Azhar Senior Scholars are to be consulted on matters pertaining to Islamic law.”

A government representative said that while the government wishes that there would be no need for loans, alternatives are not viable in the short term, making loans a necessity. He added that government loans from well-known developmental institutions.

Last month, Salafi MPs accused the Muslim Brotherhood of practicing usury after the Shura Council approved a 45 million euro deal with the European Union and European Investment Bank. The loans will be channeled into social development projects.

Last year, there was tense debate regarding the Sharia-compliance of a now delayed loan from the International Monetary Fund.

Initially Salafis had opposed the loan as a form of usury, but later, prominent Salafi preacher Yasser Borhamy issued a fatwa (Islamic legal ruling) saying that since the loan’s interest rate is only 1.1 percent, to be paid in the form of administrative fees, it could be considered a grant.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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