A study has found that Islamophobia has decreased in the Liverpool area since Egyptian soccer star Mohammed Salah was signed by Liverpool F.C.
Recruited by Liverpool F.C. in 2017, Mohamed Salah has become an icon and one of the best soccer players in the world. Winner of the 2019 Champions league, he was the subject of a study at Stanford University indicating that acts of Islamophobia have declined in the county of Merseyside - of which Liverpool is the main city - since the Egyptian player was hired.
On Saturday, June 1, Salah made history by opening the scoring for Liverpool against Tottenham and became Egypt’s first scorer in the Champions League final.
His worldwide notoriety and importance in the Liverpool area, made four researchers at Standford University ask themselves if "exposure of successful celebrities from stigmatized groups reduce prejudice towards this group in general?" especially relevant with Salah, as he is a Muslim.
"Our results suggest positive exposure to famous members of an out-group can mitigate prejudiced attitudes and behaviors, potentially through the provision of new information delivered in an empathy-inducing manner,” the experts explain.
According to their investigation since the Egyptian player's transfer to Liverpool F.C., hate and Islamophobic crimes have decreased by 18.9 percent in comparison with the figures recorded before he was signed by the club. Anti-Muslim tweets written by Liverpool fans also dropped from 7,2 percent to 3,4 percent.
"The study suggests that these results could be motivated by increased familiarity with Islam," the researchers say.
And although Salah is not the only Muslim footballer in England or even in Liverpool, his talent, and relevance to the club make him stand out. However, the Egyptian player’s talent alone does not explain this effect. His attitude of not hiding his attachment to his religion could also have played a role.
Interesting note - A reply was shown of Salah putting his head to the ground in a Muslim style of prayer, to celebrate his goal.— Wojtuś (@WojReport) June 1, 2019
Yet when a player makes the sign of the cross in celebration, they make sure to cut away immediately and not show it in the replay. #UCLfinal #TOTLIV pic.twitter.com/ucXWZS0Y5A
"Salah is often seen joking with teammates with a signature grin, entertaining his young daughter on the sidelines, and respecting his opponents almost to a fault, for instance, by refusing to celebrate goals against his former clubs,” the researchers added.
Liverpool fans had already manifested their interest in Islam during Salah’s first season, but elsewhere, it's more complicated. The Egyptian has been the target of Islamophobic insults from fans of other teams on several occasions.