Salah is not the first Muslim player to have made it to the highest levels of European soccer, but his ascendance is unlike any to come before him.
Mohamed Salah, with his highly visible symbols of faith, has the ability to challenge some of this private Islamophobia while also mitigating the influence of structural Islamophobia on individuals. Their champion on the soccer field, Salah is living, breathing proof of the multilayered identity possessed by so many Muslims in Britain and indeed around the world. Unapologetically, he compels fans to reckon with this reality.
“He is someone who embodies Islam’s values and wears his faith on his sleeve. He has a likability. He is the hero of the team,” noted Miqdaad Versi, the assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain. “He is not the solution to Islamophobia, but he can play a major role.”
People have posted on social media that they want to convert to Islam because of some muslim players. It’s not only about the goals they are scoring – particularly Salah, the Premier League’s outright top scorer on 28 goals – but because they are spreading the message of what the Muslim faith is about: being open, welcoming, among the people; being humble and not thinking about oneself – which for a star footballer generally bucks the trend.
For example, fans have adapted the tune of an English song called “Good Enough” for a Salah chant. It goes: “Mo Salah-la la la la la/If he’s good enough for you, he’s good enough for me/If he scores another few, then I’ll be Muslim too.”
“Sitting in a mosque, that’s where I wanna be,” the chant continues.
It is difficult to separate Islam from Mohamed Salah the footballer. The bearded forward can be seen with his hands visibly cupped in prayer prior to games. After scoring, he runs towards the roaring Liverpool fans in his vicinity, hugs his teammates and finally retreats back to the field for a personal moment of reflection. He then points to the sky and kneels down to perform sujood, the Islamic act of prostration.
Asif Majid of The Conversation writes of the significance of these celebrations. “In Islamic thought, sujood is perceived as the physically lowest, but spiritually highest, position a person can take.” For Salah, who is the only high-profile Muslim player to regularly prostrate himself on the soccer field, this humble act is his “specific expression of gratitude for goals scored.”
But most important may be the Muslim youth and young men who see themselves in Mohamed Salah. His success is a beacon of hope for the young men and children who sometimes hide their Muslim identities out of fear and insecurity.
DUA: Allah! please accept this from us. You are All-Hearing and All-Knowing. You are The Most Forgiving. You are The Most Relenting and repeatedly Merciful. Allah! grant us The Taufiq to read all the 5 prayers with sincerity.
(Taken from To Be Earnest In Prayers By Amina Elahi)
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