By Dr Syed Talib Hussain Warsi
Director of Intrafaith Relations, AoBM
Sports and sportsmanship cuts across all nationalities, languages, politics and geographical barriers. Football is certainly the most popular game on this the planet. Football unites people from all cultures and creeds across continents.
Just a few weeks ago, a scandal threatened to ruin the reputation of the great game of football when the FBI pressed charges of bribery and corruption against the international football governing body FIFA arresting some seven top officials. We hope the reputation of football does not suffer along with the wrong-doing of a few individuals at the top if bribery and corruption is proved.
Football is the heart and soul of our British culture. It is one of our biggest exports to the rest of the world. Wherever we may travel, Hong Kong or Delhi, Bangkok or Cape Town, it is not surprising to see Manchester United, Liverpool or Arsenal jerseys on people and the game being broadcast on their television channels.
British football clubs find support and loyalties across the world. After all, I remember since my childhood it was and is a family event to watch the Saturday afternoon kick off. We all wish, hope and pray, for it to remain so. Let us hope no individual or a group of people bring our British football to disrepute.
Yet there are some that will use football, its supporter clubs and memberships to spread division and disharmony in our country. One such organisation is AFFFMAI (All Football Firms/ Fans March Against Islamisation). On June 13th 2015, this organisation is coming to Dudley to “March Against Islamisation” with the Union Jack in their hands and slogans such as “no surrender, It’s time to take back our country” and “don’t worry, the British are coming”.
Theresa May, The Home Secretary, has emphasised the importance of “British values”, stating that British values stand for democracy, rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect. Mrs May has clearly stated and as has our Prime Minister David Cameron that Islamic values are British values and British values are Islamic values – and we whole heartedly agree with this.
Our religion is a religion of peace; Islam believes in human rights, co-existence and harmony. Let us reassure the British people that British Muslims in this country are British, this country is our country and the Union Jack is our flag. Yes we too support our local and national football teams.
Islam stands for peace, Islam means peace, and Islam pursues peace. The goal of this religion is to bind people together with love not with hate. Our greeting of “Assalamu-Alaikum” translates to “peace be upon you”.
Football is a great game; a game that can promote peace amongst many people. Our organisation, The Association of British Muslims is fully supportive of organisations that use football as a vehicle to promote peace – one such organisation called Football for Peace is led by a British Muslim who is also a professional British footballer – Kashif Siddiqi is its Co-Founder. Kashif has been working tirelessly to bring people of opposing views and ideologies to come onto the field for a game of football.
Let us use such initatives and use football work for peace.
Ideally we would have liked to invite the organisers for AFFFMAI to come to Dudley and play a friendly game of football with those Muslims who have made Dudley their home. We appeal to the Muslim community of Dudley to remain calm and not to show fear and work with local authorities to help maintain law and order in the town.
Football is a global game, with global colours. British football teams are made up of people of all colours and backgrounds; and football will remain a tool to bring diverse people together. Most football supporters – like most people of all backgrounds are decent people, they love their clubs and they love football.
Once again, let football work for peace.