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West Ham investigate Islamophobic abuse at Liverpool star Mohamed Salah

22nd Feb 2019
West Ham investigate Islamophobic abuse at Liverpool star Mohamed Salah

Mohamed Salah was subject to Islamophobic abuse (Photo: Wiki Commons)

Elham Asaad Buaras

West Ham football club are investigating after a video emerged of a fan hurling Islamophobic abuse at Liverpool’s Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah during 1-1 draw at London Stadium on February 4.

Salah, 26, was filmed on a mobile phone from a section of home supporters as he was taking a corner. The footage, taken by a fellow fan shows expletives directed at Salah including about his religion.

Despite the presence of two Muslim French players (central defender Issa Diop and winger Samir Nasri) in the east London club, a West Ham fan can be heard shouting: “Salah you f****** Muslim. F****** Muslim c***. F*** off”.

*Warning this video contains strong language

The incident was captured by Muslim Liverpool fan Sádat Yazdani who posted the clip on Twitter two days after the match with the caption, “I was disgusted by what I was hearing. People like this deserve no place in our society let alone football matches. #kickracismout”

In a statement, West Ham said they have “a zero tolerance policy to any form of violent or abusive behaviour”.

It continued: “We are an inclusive football club. Anyone identified committing an offence will have their details passed to the police and will face a lifetime ban from London Stadium. There is no place for this kind of behaviour at our stadium. The user who posted the video on Twitter said: “I was disgusted by what I was hearing. People like this deserve no place in our society let alone football matches.”

Police are aware of the incident.

“We are dismayed to see yet another high-profile incident of discrimination in English football,” anti-discrimination charity Kick It Out said in a statement.

“We are pleased that West Ham officials have expressed their determination to identify the supporter and take firm action – this type of behaviour is simply unacceptable and must be challenged swiftly and decisively.”

Salah was named PFA Player of the Year, Football Writers’ Footballer of the Year and Premier League Player of the Season last year after his 32 goals set a new record for the most in a 38-game season.

He has been praised by Steve Rotheram, Mayor of Liverpool, for helping to tackle Islamophobia and “breaking down barriers”, as well as being described as a role model for Muslim children.

Salah is particularly popular at Liverpool with dedicated chants to the Arab striker.

It contains the lines: “If he’s good enough for you/He’s good enough for me/If he scores another few/Then I’ll be Muslim too,” and ends with the words: “He’s sitting in the mosque/That’s where I want to be.”

However, last year Kick It Out said Muslim footballers playing the game at grassroots level are increasingly being targeted with Islamophobic abuse following Brexit.

Speaking to Sky News last year, Troy Townsend, Kick It Out’s education officer, said “I was always worried about Brexit and the outcome of that and I think what we’ve found now is people want to take ownership a lot more. The language coming out now – ‘This is our country, community, you weren’t born here’ – that is flat out discrimination and racism”.

“It’s happening in society, we’ve seen a spike in hatred towards Muslims because of situations that have happened. That hatred goes into the game because we have people from different backgrounds playing together. We find groups are being discriminated against and it’s nothing to do with football.”

Newcastle winger Yasin Ben El-Mhanni said he and his friends were regularly subjected to Islamophobic abuse when he started out.

He said: “When I was playing grassroots level, a lot of my friends and me got comments along the lines of ‘suicide bomber’ and ‘terrorist’, stuff like that. It was quite overwhelming and disturbing. It does affect you mentally on and off the pitch. Sometimes when you get the abuse on the pitch, it affects you in the coming days, even weeks. It was very difficult to experience.”

The emergence of anti-Muslim groups in the grounds

In March last year the Premier League warned football clubs about the Democratic Football Lads Alliance (DFLA) after claims it is using publicity surrounding high-profile matches to promote an anti-migrant and anti-Muslim agenda. Social media posts by DFLA supporters have focused on anti-migrant and anti-Muslim messages.

The Premier League has held talks with police chiefs about the group and warned clubs about the group’s banners inside the grounds. DFLA banners have been seen at some groups. Newcastle United said that it would stop DFLA banners and flags being shown at games. The group said it had displayed 50 flags at football clubs.

Mark Phillips, a ​West Ham under 18s coach, attended the DFLA march. Phillips was initially suspended by the club in October but was allowed to return in November with no further punishment.

 

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