Mohamed Salah: a football icon as Islam ambassador?
The Egyptians are pinning their hopes on striker Mohamed Salah in the World Cup. Despite a recent shoulder injury Salah is participating in the football championships in Russia. Many newspaper commentators, however, expect more from him than just a great performance on the pitch. Others fear too much is expected of him.
A role model for young Muslims
Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah is an ideal goodwill ambassador for moderate Islam, the Malta Today comments approvingly:
“As a moderate Muslim, Salah provides a new path for frustrated young people to follow. He performs prostration after each goal, fasts in Ramadan, regularly reads the Koran and named his daughter, Makka, after Islam's holiest city. The image he conveys of a moderate, tolerant Muslim not only challenges the dominant stereotypes about Arab youth, but encourages them to accept each other's differences and unite behind a single Muslim identity - evident in chants sung by Liverpool fans, such as 'I'll be Muslim too' and 'Mohamed Salah, a Gift from Allah'.”
Football star can't be a saviour
The pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat says too much is expected of footballer Salah:
“After all, he's just one member of his team. No matter how many goals he shoots, prizes he receives or donations are sent to his village he won't be able to change the image of the Arabs and Muslims. ... The emphasis on the role of an individual is part of our culture, which attaches great importance to the figure of a leader or emir while neglecting the role of society and state institutions. ... This culture is now coming to the fore with the idea of Mohamed Salah as a football leader who is capable of performing miracles all on his own, regardless of how his team performs.”