Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Muslim World Cup Players Promote Image

By Ahmad Atta, IOL Correspondent

CAIRO — Superstar Muslim footballers leading several high-profile European teams in Germany 2006 FIFA World Cup are contributing to a paradigm shift, showing a face of Islam some have not seen and many others have claimed never existed.

"Muslim players in European soccer teams are a proof that their faith and cultures are not stumbling blocks hindering contribution to the development of their societies in all domains," Anas al-Tikriti, former chairman of the Muslim Association of Britain, told

"They can help clear misconceptions about Islam and prove that the Muslim faith is a way of life," he added.

Many Muslim players have captured the limelight during their participation in the world football gala.

Among them is French playmaker legend and three-time FIFA World Player of the Year Zinedine Zidane.

His expected successor, midfielder Franck Ribery, has also made headlines during his country's opener against Switzerland.

Ribery, a native French revert, raised his hands and supplicated to God like a typical Muslim before the kickoff.

Among the other prominent Muslim names in the mondial are Dutch Boulahrouz Khalid and Van Persie Robin as well as Swede Ibrahimovic Zlatan.


Renowned French intellectual Francois Burgat said successes in sports and other fields help refute allegations about Muslims and ease hardships facing the Muslim minorities in the West.

"Those players are giving the best example of the true nature of Islam," he told IOL.

"The consecutive selection of Zidane as France's most popular man is a step in this direction," Burgat believes.

Tirkriti agreed, saying such stars can help in better integrating Muslims in their European societies and being accepted by fellow citizens.

"A footballer can have a greater influence than a scholar or a preacher if he offers a good example to others," noted the activist.

He recalled one incident while delivering a sermon at a mosque in Aberdeen, Scotland, during the last holy month of Ramadan.

"The place of worship was unusually teeming with people and when I asked the imam about it he said that two Muslims who play in the Scottish league attend prayers during Ramadan."

Tirkriti said European Muslims who make it to the top in any field serve as models for fellow Muslims.

He believes that such superstars can also contribute to solving many of the problems young European Muslims suffer.

The British Muslim leader regretted the lack of self-confidence and engagement by many young Muslims because of the increasing anti-Muslim rhetoric.

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