Delhi: On June 1, Mohammed Salah led his team, Liverpool, to victory in the UEFA Champions League final. Following that victory, Salah’s fans chanted:
“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 a mosque…
That’s where I wanna be.”
Yesterday was surreal. Thanks to everyone for making the city feel like… Anfield! pic.twitter.com/uQjEum74YJ
— Mohamed Salah (@MoSalah) June 3, 2019
Apart from being a star player who helped British football club Liverpool win the UEFA final, Mo Salah has helped reduce prejudice towards Muslims in Liverpool, says a recent study by Stanford University’s Immigration Policy Lab (IPL). The results of the research were concluded by studying three measures: hate crime, social media, and a survey experiment.
— ImmigrationPolicyLab (@ImmigrationLab) May 31, 2019
Mo Salah’s subtle yet significant display of his religion has sensitised Liverpool’s majority White fans towards Islam. Never before had a Muslim player playing for a British football club celebrated his goals by prostrating. His prostrating gesture has become so symbolic that the 2019 FIFA video game has included it in their games.
The research conducted by IPL pointed out that since Salah started playing for Liverpool in 2017, hate crimes against Muslims in Merseyside have reduced by 18.9%, as compared with when Salah had not joined the club.
“The observed decrease is larger in Merseyside than in all placebo counties, suggesting the result is not merely due to chance. Moreover, the decrease in hate crimes in Merseyside is not attributable to a general decline in crime: there is a larger relative decline in hate crimes than any other crime category,” said the research.
The research also analysed 15 million tweets by followers of prominent English football clubs, and by generating a counterfactual anti-Muslim tweet rate by fans of other teams, it found that the proportion of anti-Muslim tweets produced by Liverpool fans after Salah joined was about half of the expected rate had he not joined Liverpool — which is 3.8%
versus 7.3% of tweets related to Muslims.
Lastly, the research also conducted a survey experiment among 8,060 Liverpool fans to find out how prejudicial behaviour has reduced among them. “These findings suggest that positive exposure to outgroup celebrities can reveal new and humanizing information about the group at large, reducing prejudiced attitudes and behaviors.”
The “Salah Effect,” as it is now being called, is not unique to the player, but is a phenomenon that celebrities belonging to a stigmatised groups can create. The research quotes public figures like British-Bangladeshi Nadiyah Hussain, who was the winner of 2015 show The Great British Bake-Off. Nadiyah was hailed for doing “more for British-Muslim relations than 10 years of government (British) policy.”
But speaking to an Indian fan of the game, another perspective can also be seen. “I feel that fans forget whether Mo Salah is Hindu, Muslim, Christian when he enters the field. He is that good. The moment he does something bad, all those people will start calling him names,” says a 24-year-old Bhopal resident.
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