Mohamed Salah: The Face of Islam in the World of Football
Updated: Feb 16
Author: Minna Elhannouny
As Liverpool FC star Mohamed Salah transformed the world of football, the ongoing prejudice and ignorance of Islam began to fall.
Prostration; the action of lowering one’s head to the floor in subservience to God: an action that Muslims all around the world perform 34 times during daily prayer. It is also an act of thanks and praise to the Most-High, known as sujood al-shukr (prostration of gratitude) in Arabic.
Salah prostrating on the field.
Muslims recognize that when one’s status is raised, one must lower themselves humbly before the eyes of God. Mohamed Salah is arguably one of today’s greatest football players. It is expected of him to feel a sense of greatness and pride. Yet after he scores a goal, amidst the chaos of the crowd, he bows down on the turf, prostrates, and remembers that God is the One allowing his greatness to prosper.
His humble character despite the amount of success and trophies he has won for Liverpool has attracted millions of fans worldwide. He has risen not only as a top footballer, but also as a symbolic figure for Islam. Fans have begun to embrace his Muslim identity, shaking Anfield stadium as they watch the Egyptian’s footwork with one of their most popular chants:
“If he’s good enough for you, he’s good enough for me, if he scores another few, then I’ll be Muslim too. Mo Sa-la-la-la-lah, Sa-la-la-la-la-lah. Sitting in the mosque, that’s where I wanna be.”
There is a clear difference between Salah, the Egyptian king, and other world-class players of football: he has made a significant influence on the pitch as well as the image of Muslims worldwide. A study by Stanford University found an 18.9% drop in anti-Muslim hate crimes in Merseyside since Salah joined Liverpool in 2017. Anti-Muslim tweets by Liverpool fans began to decline, dropping from 7.3% to 3.8%.
While ignorance is the main factor for these discriminatory sentiments, Salah has helped to eliminate this discrimination by reversing viewers’ negative perceptions of Islam.
However, there have been many incidents of players suffering from racist comments and abuse from football fans. During a Europa League game at Slavia Prague, a video circulated on the internet of a group of Chelsea fans calling Salah a “bomber.” What is causing these fans to have these negative attitudes is not formed from what they see on the pitch. Rather, it is formed from the negative perception of Muslims that the media has ingrained into English people for years.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp responded to the incident, calling it “disgusting” and “another example of something which absolutely should not happen. It’s still only a few people doing it but the stronger the reaction is from all of us, the more it will help to avoid things like this in the future.” Chelsea player Olivier Giroud stated “these guys don’t belong to Chelsea. We are 100% behind Mo Salah.” The football community, Premier League, and other organizations condemned those fans’ behavior.
Salah celebrates Liverpool’s win by striking a yoga pose.
Salah’s response? A few days later, Chelsea met Liverpool at home. Salah celebrated Liverpool’s 2-0 win by striking a yoga pose standing on one foot, eyes closed.
He peacefully communicated to racist fans that their actions cannot knock him off balance and that Islam does not support or tolerate any form of violence or religious discrimination.
His impact on Islam’s image and his honorable character has moved millions of Muslims around the world. The ongoing hatred of Muslims spread by the media, journalists, and politicians have angered Muslims and caused them to lose hope. However, the rise of Egyptian king Salah has inspired Muslims to be resilient and look up to him as the true image of Islam that society has been blind to.
We as Muslims can learn from his successes, as the best way to spread knowledge and eliminate prejudicial attitudes is through our achievements and good character.
Minna Elhannouny is a high school senior from the suburbs of Chicago with an interest in pursuing a career in optometry. In her free time, she explores her passion for football, art, and religious studies.