Advertisement Close

Mohamed Salah Facing Racism and Islamophobia in Football

posted on: Jul 20, 2022

Mohamed Salah during a game, Photo Credit: Middle East Eye

By: Caroline Umphlet / Arab America Contributing Writer


Mural of Salah in Cairo, Photo Credit: The National News

Mohamed Salah is a professional Egyptian football player, who is absolutely cherished by the Arab World. He is currently a forward player for the Liverpool F.C. team and the captain of the Egyptian national team. Salah, also referred to as the Egyptian King, is from Nagrig, Gharbia, Egypt, a village north of Cairo. He is an inspiration to all Arabs and a respectable role model because of his incredible success story and determination. Some call him the best player in the world. It is almost impossible to walk around Egypt and not see graffiti, art, or a billboard of Salah in the streets.

Salah in the sujud position after scoring a goal, Photo Credit: Outlook

Salah is true to his roots in Egypt. He is also a proud and openly devout Muslim, and very public with his beliefs. The player often celebrates a goal with sujud, the position during prayer where one is on their knees and touches their forehead to the ground. He also named his first daughter Mecca, in tribute to the Islamic holy site. Saudi Arabia gifted him land in Mecca for being “a wonderful representative of Islam in Britain.”

Instances of Racism or Islamophobia

The industry of international football, unfortunately, has a shameful reputation of racism and islamophobia, especially in the United Kingdom. The comments and remarks that Mohamed Salah and other Muslim or non-white players have had to deal with is completely appalling.


An Egyptian journalist, suggested Salah shave his beard in a column in the Al-Ahram newspaper. He reasoned that the beard “puts him in one basket with extremists…. and terrorists.” Naturally, there was great backlash and criticism on social media for this remark. Salah continues to sport his beard and has done so his entire career.


Credit: Guardian Football

A fan posted another video on Twitter of a person in the stands screaming racist names at Salah during Liverpool’s match against West Ham in the premier league. You can hear them yelling, “Salah you f***ing Muslim” and other obscenities at him. West Ham condemned the actions in the video and opened an investigation. The person was banned from football games for three years.

The same year, another video was posted of Chelsea fans chanting, “Salah is a bomber.” They were identified and banned from Slavia Prague’s stadium. Chelsea responded with a statement including: “Such individuals are an embarrassment to the vast majority of Chelsea supporters who won’t tolerate them in their club.” Liverpool also condemned the video, calling it an act of “unadulterated bigotry.”


Proof of a shattered window broken posted by the EFA on their Instagram
One of the signs from the World Cup game, 2022 also posted on the EFA’s Instagram
Salah with green lasers shining in his eyes, Photo Credit: Sky News

The most recent incident of racist behavior Salah and his teammates have had to endure was at the 2022 World Cup playoffs against Senegal. Salah had green lasers shone straight in his eyes while he had a penalty kick. The Egyptian Football Association (EFA) filed official complaints about how the team’s bus was attacked with rocks and bottles, leading to broken windows and some injuries. Fans were also throwing bottles and rocks at the players during their warm-ups. The team saw “racism with offensive signs in the stands against the Egyptian players in general, and Mohamed Salah in particular.” However, there is debate over whether this specific incident was just the nature of football fans.


The hate is even more vile online, where people can hide behind the anonymity of a screen. 

One football fan plead guilty to racially/religiously aggravated intentional harassment for posting photos edited of Salah with a suicide vest on and and the whole team praying, among other racist and Islamophobic comments on Twitter. The man was sentenced to 6 weeks of jail time suspended for 12 months, and had to complete 200 hours of community work.

Below are some examples of disgusting responses on Twitter Salah constantly deals with.

A fan pointing out the racism towards Salah in addition to Wilfried Zaha

Twitter and Facebook, which owns Instagram as well, all claimed last year they are imposing tougher measures on hateful posts. Posts like these violate their terms of conduct, but were not being regulated. Now, these sites claim they will be removing posts, and have implemented more means of regulation. For example, users can block certain words, emojis, and phrases. Instagram will permanently delete accounts that private message hateful things a certain amount of times. Facebook and Instagram also allow a user to block future accounts that someone might make, to preemptively act against online abuse.

Moving Forward

Salah on the cover of TIME magazine for being one of their top 100 most influential people in 2019, Photo Credit: Pari Dukovic for TIME

On the bright side, Stanford University released a study in 2019 showing that Salah’s presence on the Liverpool team, since he joined in 2017, has actively reduced islamophobic hate crimes in the area by 16%. Additionally, online Islamophobic posts have decreased by half. European football fans are positively exposed to Salah from interviews, videos, social media, etc. and see that he, as a Muslim person, is just as deserving as anyone of respect. Salah is apolitical and not particularly making a statement with his religion. Rather, he is just being himself and that is enough to weaken the negative views of Arabs and Islam. Essentially, this proves that representation and diversity in media is essential to foster understanding and acceptance. 

Liverpool fans chanting for Salah, 2019, Credit: Youtube

Salah has a chant that goes, “If he’s good enough for you he’s good enough for me. If he scores another few, then I’ll be Muslim too. If he’s good enough for you he’s good enough for me. Sitting in the mosque, that’s where I want to be!

We can only hope that there is more progress than just 19% because it is perturbing that anyone has to deal with senseless and ugly hate like this in the first place. However, Mohamed Salah will continue to make the Arab world proud as an honorable Egyptian and Muslim celebrity.

Check out Arab America’s blog here!