How athletes help the image of Muslims


10:16 am - August 31st 2012

by Guest    


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contribution by Urmee Khan

At the risk of coming across all sentimental, the Olympics and Paralympics have made Britons feel fluffy as lint but the biggest winners of the sporting summer are undoubtedly we Muslims.

How we pine for Gaz Choudhry, the Pakistan-born wheelchair basketball player from Ealing, to be the next Mo Farah. Choudhry has played alongside Paralympians such as Ade Adepitan and he won Gold at the 2011 European Championships.

And it’s not just Olympic sports.

Watching the cricket has been painful for England fans but if you happen to be a Muslim, then perhaps inside you felt yourself cheering for Hashim Amla, the bushy-bearded Muslim who has led South Africa’s destruction of England’s claims to be the best team in the world this summer.

In football Liverpool fans were cheered by the news that Turkish footballer Nuri Sahin would be joining them at Anfield on loan from Real Madrid. Sahin was born in Germany but chose instead to play for Turkey.

As for the ladies, we have seen some brilliant Olympic moments. Khadija Mohammed the first female weight lifter from the United Arab Emirates. This plucky 17 year old was the first to wear a hijab at the Olympics as well as an ‘approved’ body covering unitard.

Who could forget the image of Saudi Arabian Sarah Attar competing in the 800m race? What a statement she made running in a headscarf – it was a massive middle finger up to our radicalised chums in the caves.

These Muslims inspire pride and togetherness. Mo Farah, in his gold-medal winning moments, draped himself in the Union flag and basked in the adoration of a modern British audience. At that moment, he could have passed for the most loved Briton ever, let alone the most loved Muslim.

It does reframe the debate. David Cameron spoke about a “40 year old black man that he knows” in the run up to the last election. At this rate, we’ll all know of Muslims who far from stereotyped images of radical religious zealots seem alright to the man on the street.

I know there are some great Muslim role models already out there (no need to write in, I know about the boxing converts). But the new crop of Muslim sports stars are apolitical. They don’t need to prove their faith. It is a part of them but it doesn’t define them.

It strikes a chord for many of today’s Muslims. Being Muslim isn’t a statement, it’s a way of life and there’s no need to go on about it. Hopefully understanding this will now spread through society. It was cheering to see Zayn Malik, from One Direction, tweet an Eid Mubarak message to his followers. It seemed natural, no big statement.

All of them are simply doing their little part in breaking down those boxes about what a Muslim is – just as Demba Ba, Papiss Demba Cisse and Hatem Ben Arfa have for Geordies with their performances in the black and white of Newcastle United. It’s simple. We like winners. And Muslim winners at that.


Urmee Khan is a freelance journalist. www.urmeekhan.co.uk

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Reader comments


1. TorquilMacneil

“Being Muslim isn’t a statement, it’s a way of life”

Of course, for many, many Muslims it isn’t even that, it is just a vague familial background, like being ‘Christian’ is for the majority of Britons. Let’s hope that these numbers grow and Islam dwindles as thoroughly as Christianity has.

Don’t we like Christian, Jewish and other religions too? Don’t people like Jonathon Edwards set an example?

Watching the cricket has been painful for England fans but if you happen to be a Muslim, then perhaps inside you felt yourself cheering for Hashim Amla, the bushy-bearded Muslim who has led South Africa’s destruction of England’s claims to be the best team in the world this summer.

Um. If you’re a British Muslim, isn’t potentially a bit problematic to find yourself supporting opposing teams on the basis that some of their players share a religion with you? The wonderful thing about Mo Farah after all was that he was wrapped in the Union Jack, saying “this is my country” – being British and Muslim, with no contradiction between the two. It’s not like we were all supporting the Amharic Christians competing with him.

I know there are some great Muslim role models already out there (no need to write in, I know about the boxing converts). But the new crop of Muslim sports stars are apolitical. They don’t need to prove their faith. It is a part of them but it doesn’t define them.

How does being ‘apolitical’ map onto competing in a hijab?

You seem to want to have your cake and eat it: you say Mo Farah, in his gold-medal winning moments, draped himself in the Union flag and basked in the adoration of a modern British audience which – correctly – identifies Farah as British as much as Muslim, but you also say you felt yourself cheering for Hashim Amla, the bushy-bearded Muslim who has led South Africa’s destruction of England’s claims to be the best team in the world this summer – which suggests Amia’s faith trumps his nationslity when it comes to your support.

And isn’t this entire article about defining Muslim sports stars by their faith, not their nationality? I can’t imagine a Christian or Jew basking in the reflected glory of an South African Christian or an American Jew.

And, your point is? You know poly filler pieces are all well and good, but what is the point of this? Who is this aimed at and for what ends? Is your average racist likely to won over by this?

All you have told me is that some Muslims compete for the British and some Muslims cheer on Muslims against the British. Yes well, I kinda knew that anyway. No racist is going to think ‘hmm, perhaps I am wrong about the anti British Muslims’

Sunny, I need to ask:’is this the relaunch? What are we trying achieve here? Is the progressive movement so moribund we are reduced to rehashing puff pieces?

Sunny, I need to ask:’is this the relaunch? What are we trying achieve here? Is the progressive movement so moribund we are reduced to rehashing puff pieces?

I’m constantly amazed at the different ways people find to whine about pieces they dislike.

I could be wrong but Mo Farah seems like he’d be cheering on the English team in the cricket.

8. Chaise Guevara

@ 5 Jim

“Who is this aimed at and for what ends?”

Good question. If anything, it seems designed to trigger a Daily Mail headline: British Muslims Prefer To Cheer Foreigners!

This news about Muslim athletes is surely welcome given all the other news about terrorists and massacres.

Being Muslim isn’t a statement, it’s a way of life and there’s no need to go on about it.

I’m sure you’re correct.

So why go on about it?

“So why go on about it?”

In case it gets overlooked?

IMO that’s unlikely with the reports in the daily news.

12. Planeshift

“Sunny, I need to ask:’is this the relaunch? What are we trying achieve here?”

Because these kind of threads attract trolls and contrarians from all perspectives, increase the hit count, and generate ‘noise’.

Sunny @ 12

Dislike? What is there to ‘dislike’? This article is so bland there is simply nothing to like or dislike in it, that is the issue. If I had disliked it, it least I would have formed an opinion on something. At best, this could be summed on twitter as: ‘Some Muslims are good at sport, others cheer against British teams’ and still have nearly a hundred characters to spare.

God knows how many people have read this today, so what have they (including me) learned? How many former racists are now committed to tolerance because of this?

In short, Sunny what is the point of re-printing this here? Are you suggesting that the concept that some Muslims are good at some sports requires a wider audience, lest we forget?

What a great idea; medal tables organised by religion, ethnicity or gender.

Another stunning LC article.

“What a great idea; medal tables organised by religion, ethnicity or gender.”

I hope they will allow categories for secularists and for transsexuals as well as well.

16. Raymond Terrific

In 2012 we ought to be asking why anyone bases their life on mumbo-jumbo religion – or ‘faith’ if you like. It’s not like we haven’t worked out the universe / evolution thing.

Come on boffins, let get this sorted!

Tim J #3 – er, cricket fans are different from the football variety. We’re quite capable of supporting England v South Africa while AT THE SAME TIME recognising Hashim Amla aqs a truly great batsman. It’s called something like… not being totally effing stupid. Can you get your head round that?

Amla is a wizard with the bat and a bit of a beardy. But in the beard department all must bow to the greatest of them all:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/shared/spl/hi/cricket/02/ashes/legends/html/grace.stm

By news reports, Chinese athletes are in the lead in the Paralympics medals table so I don’t understand how that helps the image of Muslims. Obviously, I’m missing something.

@4. Shatterface: “And isn’t this entire article about defining Muslim sports stars by their faith, not their nationality? I can’t imagine a Christian or Jew basking in the reflected glory of an South African Christian or an American Jew.”

I think it is a misplaced argument around identity politics.

Unless forced, I am unwilling or incapable of differentiation. I’m too old to give a shit about about race, religion or birth place.

I smile when a Kenyan runner wins a long distance race and excuses are made for the absence of a UK contender. The same excuse could have been made previously for non competitive UK cyclists.

@shatterface

http://deportesus.terra.com/olympic-games/london-2012/noticias/0,,OI6070906-EI19641,00-How+Ally+Raisman+became+Israels+favorite+medalist.html

http://israelisoldiersmother.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/a-letter-to-ally-raisman-from-idf.html

Sorry – that link doesn’t seem to work – above is an alternative. To clarify, I have no problem with the post, with the idea that British Muslims might be pleased to see a Muslim SA captain, or with the Israeli interest in Aly Raisman’s success.

23. the a&e charge nurse

A better explanation of kinship – also why religion poisons everything, and why it is time to move on from these outmoded forms of labeling
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1lTR8V90qU

Medibot disagrees with some of these comments. This is purely identity politics and it is no crime to feel affinity with an athlete based on a personal identity, whether it be faith, nationality, race or sexuality. A lot of Brits cheered on Usain Bolt – it doesn’t make them unpatriotic. Medibot cheered on the blade runner for his prosthetic robotic limbs as Medibot likes all things robotic.

25. Chaise Guevara

@ Raymond and a&e

While we can sit around and tell each other how religion is past its sell-by date and completely irrational, we’re not going to magically convince everyone else to start accepting reality. So it’s not actually a practical response to religious issues.

I exist, for crying out loud. I even sent down some texts, let Moses part the seas i.e. a miracle in a rational scientific world, documented in texts for their time.

I thought that would have been enough but then Satan produced Richard Dawkins and laughed in my face i.e. take *that* God.

I ain’t producing any more miracles, just gonna sit back, chill and let you lot squabble over my existence and notions of alternate paradigms steeped in human reasoning. I give up, see some of you in the afterlife cause I ain’t turning up on earth to satisfy some *man-made* theoretical burden of proof.

@medibot – yes, it’s like being pleased to see openly gay athletes competing if you are gay – or indeed if you are not. Some people seem to have a very low irritation threshold.

28. the a&e charge nurse

[25] ‘So it’s not actually a practical response to religious issues’ – with the greatest of respect Chaise, the drip, drip effect of reality, rationalism and genuine enquiry will win out over cultures determined primarily by invented, man made stories.

Not that long ago theorcracies tortured, and murdered those who objected to the central tenets of ideologies like islam or christianity, but this changed because atheists insisted on speaking their mind.

29. Chaise Guevara

“I ain’t producing any more miracles, just gonna sit back, chill and let you lot squabble over my existence and notions of alternate paradigms steeped in human reasoning.”

God is going to boycott his production of plagues. And THEN where will we be?

30. Chaise Guevara

@ 28 a&e

“with the greatest of respect Chaise, the drip, drip effect of reality, rationalism and genuine enquiry will win out over cultures determined primarily by invented, man made stories.”

Yes and no. Humanity generally moves forward, and abhorrent practices once deemed acceptable become taboo and illegal. But this is to do with general culture as well as religion (of course, the two are hopelessly entangled). People used to be tortured to death in the name of god (still are), but also in the name of the king (ditto). Torturing people who disagree with you is deemed horrific, here and now, regardless of *why* they disagree with you.

I’m not at all convinced, by the way, that religions and pseudo-religions are going to go away. Maybe Christianity, Islam et al. will die out, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be replaced with rationality. People stop believing one stupid thing, like the idea that epilepsy is caused by demons, and then another stupid thing comes along, like the idea that minuscule amounts of good stuff dissolved into relatively huge quantities of water have a higher medicinal value than a similarly administered placebo (thanks, Tim!).

In fact, today’s homeopaths have far less excuse than yesterday’s demonologists, because the facts are right there in front of them yet they carry on regardless.

All this is tangential to my point, though, which is that even if society will be a bastion of reason and enlightenment in X hundred years’ time, that’s no solution to the fact that animosity towards Muslims is widespread NOW. A “drip, drip” effect is not enough. You can’t just say “well, people shouldn’t be religious”, because they’ll keep on being religious.

31. Chaise Guevara

To sum up, a&e, I’m not saying that atheists speaking out is pointless. I’m saying that it doesn’t solve all our faith-related problems.

32. the a&e charge nurse

[31] ‘I’m saying that it doesn’t solve all our faith-related problems’ – not least because faith based ideologies often overreact when confronted with too much reality.
http://www.channel4.com/programmes/islam-the-untold-story/articles/tom-holland-responds-to-the-programmes-critics

33. Chaise Guevara

@ 32 a&e

Well, exactly. You can’t just say “You silly people! Let me explain the facts!” and expect that to change the world. Wish you could, but you can’t.

The problem with embracing role models from one particular community is that if you feel pride at their achievements you should also accept some shared feeling of shame when people from that community misbehave. You can’t laud the good but not the bad.

There are many bankers who boast about the large financial contribution towards the nations revenue but don’t feel remorse at the catastrophe their sector has produced. Likewise there are many within the black community who feel pride at the community’s contribution towards arts, sports and culture whilst nervously seek to distance themselves from the overrepresentation of young black males residing in Her Magesty’s leisure.

So I suggest you accept joy in Mo’s Britishness rather than his being a Muslim otherwise you’ll be drawn onto the actions of the 7th July bombers.

35. the a&e charge nurse

[33] ‘You can’t just say “You silly people! Let me explain the facts!” and expect that to change the world’ – yes, and no, Chaise – atheists DO have a duty to try and educate those who have been indoctrinated with one brand of religion or another, although I agree we cannot necessarily impose such views on others, nor expect believers to automatically change their outlook after exposure to the growing body of knowledge that has emerged as a result of scientific inquiry.

The OP suggests pride in a rather fluffy, and dare I say westernised incarnation of muslim culture, certainly one that seems to be at odds with forms that exist in those countries geographically closer to where islamic faith first emanated.
Now I am not saying that people should not be allowed to persist with delusions but lets not overlook the strong association with violence and oppression, as well as antithetical relationship with knowledge (in common with other monotheisms which have been slow to change until confronted by the untenable nature of such belief systems).

Perhaps in time (after sufficient exposure to rationalism) islam, and by extension muslim identity in the west will morph into the ‘all things to all people’ posture that has become so redolent of softer faiths like the CoE?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQf5jL3a4iU&feature=related

er, cricket fans are different from the football variety. We’re quite capable of supporting England v South Africa while AT THE SAME TIME recognising Hashim Amla aqs a truly great batsman. It’s called something like… not being totally effing stupid. Can you get your head round that?

You know, there’s a difference between recognising a great player and cheering for them when they’re beating your side. Glenn McGrath was a great bowler, and I wasn’t cheering him on when he demolished England’s top order for fun. Ricky Ponting was a great batsman, not so many cheers from me either. When Curtly Ambrose knocked us over for 46, I was staggered at how brilliant his bowling was. But I wasn’t cheering him on either.

Equally, when Matthew Hayden belted out another 150 in the Ashes, I wasn’t going “it’s so good to see a committed Christian beating England”.

37. Chaise Guevara

@ 35 a&e

I don’t disagree with any of that. All I’m saying is that you shouldn’t treat convincing people to be rational as your ONLY solution to faith-based problems, because that leaves lots of other solutions you could also be trying. It’s not either/or.

Take the problem of anti-Muslim sentiment in the UK, for example. In the long term, you might hope to convince everyone that religion is irrational. While you’re working on that, however, you can try more short-term solutions like making the public more aware of the friendly westernised Muslim who lives down their street, and encouraging Islamic leaders (priests etc) to embrace more modern interpretations of the faith.

Wouldn’t competing without a headscarf or “approved” (by whom?) body covering been somewhat more of a “massive middle finger”?

I’m in the unusual position of being a white, English, Home Counties supporter of Pakistan (sorry about that Mr Tebbit).

I shall use this as an excuse for being critical of the OP.

The OP states: “the biggest winners of the sporting summer are undoubtedly we Muslims”. In short, rubbish.

Hashim Amla: it’s bowlers that win test matches.
Mo Farah: West African physiology + UK funding + Mo’s own massive commitment.
Hardly any success in either the Paralympics or the Olympics.
Some peripheral footballers play for under-achievers Liverpool and Newcastle. At least the words “winners” and “Newcastle” are in adjacent rather than the same sentence.

Summary: Muslims are a bit rubbish at sport. As, famously, are Jews. Actually, so are the British when you factor in our many advantages (and particularly if you factor out the many non-indigenous stars).

There at least is some genuine common ground (something to go on while we wait patiently for British Pakistanis to produce a mystery spinner or two).

People are missing the point. Terrorists are political and not spiritual, suicide bombing are not even compatible with the fundamental tenets of Islam and in complete opposition to it i.e. considered a sin.

Most acts of terrorism historically have been committed by secularists for political reasons. In other words claiming all atheists are peace loving people is as a ridiculous statement as claiming everyone with a faith is a peace loving person, simply not true at all. Proclaiming ‘I am an atheist / humanist and I am right about everything’ is just as counterproductive and condescending as a someone with a faith saying they are right too (there are rationalists and scientists who follow a faith and those that don’t)

People usually fight due to someone else being different to them as almost an act of self preservation maybe even a Darwinian concept of the selfish gene. If anything, I’m all for peace loving religions and faith that transcends nationalities and boundaries to break down notions of nationhood. The irony is that Islam was a modern forward looking faith for its time that was revolutionary and in the modern world some people want to take it back to the stone age which is steeped in culture rather than faith.

Urmee’s article should be applauded as basically she is saying muslim youth should not look at some extremist preacher peddling lies as a solution for your problems and a pathway to salvation and happiness, look at Mo Farrah instead – it is something to be proud of, something to aspire to.

Extremist preachers are no different to Nick Griffin – they represent the extreme elements within society and the minority do not represent the majority. If people in this forum think the majority of mainstream people within a faith is reflected by the actions of a few extremists given ample coverage by the media then they are really naive.

Shatterface
”And isn’t this entire article about defining Muslim sports stars by their faith, not their nationality? I can’t imagine a Christian or Jew basking in the reflected glory of an South African Christian or an American Jew.”

Shatterface being a notorious online Islamophobe ever ready to mention when a Muslim does wrong- so it’s not a suprise to see him getting annoyed by something positive written about Muslims. Ultimately if Islamophobes didnt (uniquely) hold other Muslims guilty for the negative actions of their co-religionists there wouldnt be a need to point out the faith of Muslims who did positive things

42. the a&e charge nurse

‘If people in this forum think the majority of mainstream people within a faith is reflected by the actions of a few extremists given ample coverage by the media then they are really naive’ – no, not just extremist, but wholesale abuses perpetrated by groups likes the taliban.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTwskabU9-U

I saw in the MSM today that an iranian para-olympian wouldn’t even shake hands with a woman – OK, admittedly it was t’fail reporting it, but it was claimed ‘Many male athletes from Islamic countries do not shake hands in public with women they are not related to for cultural and religious reasons’ – can this be true?

a&e charge nurse: “Many male athletes from Islamic countries do not shake hands in public with women they are not related to for cultural and religious reasons’ – can this be true?”

By current news reports, many women in Egypt evidently have the opposite problem:

“Campaigners in Egypt say the problem of sexual harassment is reaching epidemic proportions, with a rise in such incidents over the past three months. For many Egyptian women, sexual harassment – which sometimes turns into violent mob-style attacks – is a daily fact of life, reports the BBC’s Bethany Bell in Cairo. . . Dressing conservatively is no longer a protection, according to Dina Farid of the campaign group Egypt’s Girls are a Red Line. She says even women who wear the full-face veil – the niqab – are being targeted.”
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-19440656

Shatterface being a notorious online Islamophobe ever ready to mention when a Muslim does wrong- so it’s not a suprise to see him getting annoyed by something positive written about Muslims. Ultimately if Islamophobes didnt (uniquely) hold other Muslims guilty for the negative actions of their co-religionists there wouldnt be a need to point out the faith of Muslims who did positive things

I think your head’s come undone, and if anyone was genuinely ‘Islamophobic’ (even Amnesty International doesn’t use that word) they couldn’t do better than call themselves ‘Muslim’ and post the abject twattery you just did.

45. Chaise Guevara

@ 41 Muslim

“Shatterface being a notorious online Islamophobe ever ready to mention when a Muslim does wrong”

I’ve been hanging around this joint for a good few years now, as has Shatterface. And while he’s been known to criticise Islam (it seems to have a problem or two), I’ve never seen him write anything I’d call Islamophobic. So unless he runs some famous hate-speech blog I don’t know about, I don’t think you know what “notorious” means. I have doubts about your understanding of “Islamophobe” too.

Let me guess: you read three of Shatterface’s comments out of context and got a bit of a grumpy on?

46. the a&e charge nurse

[41] ‘Ultimately if Islamophobes didnt (uniquely) hold other Muslims guilty for the negative actions of their co-religionists there wouldnt be a need to point out the faith of Muslims who did positive things’ – please engage with the substantive arguments rather than shouting ‘islamaphobe’.

The only reason there is a slightly fluffier version of islam in the west is because rationalists are more inclined to confront the absurdities of a self evidently man made belief system masquerading as the will of a supposed deity (as well as offering more liberal life style choices) – in the face of reason it becomes harder to sustain the kind of myths and prejudices ingrained in those countries driven by islamic culture.

If somebody is racing for mohammed it doesn’t stop them from being a great athlete, but it doesn’t mean rationalists should share in their delusion either.

[46]The only reason there is a slightly fluffier version of islam in the west is because rationalists are more inclined to confront the absurdities of a self evidently man made belief system masquerading as the will of a supposed deity (as well as offering more liberal life style choices) – in the face of reason it becomes harder to sustain the kind of myths and prejudices ingrained in those countries driven by islamic culture.

—-

Read the Quran, Bible and Science by Dr Maurice Bucaille. He looks at religious text from a rationalist and scientific context and properly.

I’m still puzzling about why a benign deity doesn’t intervene to prevent earthquakes, tsunamis and pandemics.

49. Chaise Guevara

@ 48 Bob B

“I’m still puzzling about why a benign deity doesn’t intervene to prevent earthquakes, tsunamis and pandemics.”

There’s a staggeringly easy answer to that question, but believers tend to miss it. Hence theodicy.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Jason Brickley

    How athletes help the image of Muslims http://t.co/YharGN8g

  2. Dave Harris

    I love this, especially the middle finger bit :o) RT @libcon How athletes help the image of Muslims http://t.co/A2dn8cCw

  3. leftlinks

    Liberal Conspiracy – How athletes help the image of Muslims http://t.co/RiQ8pxIN

  4. Michael Rawlings

    How athletes help the image of Muslims | Liberal Conspiracy: These Muslims inspire pride and togetherness. Mo Fa… http://t.co/NwZzIypc

  5. BevR

    How athletes help the image of Muslims | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/X011ZzFF via @libcon

  6. Abdullah Khan

    How athletes help the image of Muslims http://t.co/HqjbfX3L via @libcon





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