“If he’s good enough for you he’s good enough for me, if he scores another few then I’ll be Muslim too.”

A Liverpool chant from the terraces, to the tune of the 1996 hit ‘Good Enough’ by Dodgy, has demonstrated once again that Britain is an inclusive society which celebrates our differences. The chant is praising Mohamed Salah, an Egyptian footballer who has scored 23 Premier goals for Liverpool this season. The chant, “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, he’s sitting in the mosque that’s where I wanna be” has been described by Liverpool fan Asif Bodi as showing “how tolerant and welcoming the people of Liverpool really are.”

Football - FA Premier League - Liverpool FC v Manchester City FC

Salah is praying above. Sujud means to prostrate. It is like the position used in Muslim prayer movements: palms, knees, toes, forehead and nose must be the only body parts touching the ground. During prayer when someone is in this prostration position they would say ‘Glory be to God, the Most High’ repeated three times.

There are lots of Muslim players in the English Premiership. Mesut Ozil who is a German World Cup winner, and currently playing for Arsenal, is proud of his religion and happy to show it on the pitch. “I’m a Muslim, I believe in that. You can see before games that I pray and that I’m pleased to be able to go on this path. It gives me a lot of strength,” he said. “I’m someone who’s always been thankful, someone who doesn’t just wish the best for me but for the people. It’s a very important part of my life. What’s important is to come together and show respect.” In the picture below Ozil is praying with his hands in front and the palms upwards. During the prayer hands are kept openly up, towards the heavens. The two palms, standing at the level of chest as scale of a balance, wait openly for the blessings of the All-Compassionate Allah, from the heavens to come.

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Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium has a multi-faith fans’ prayer room as does Liverpool’s main stand which was refurbished in 2016. This allows Muslims and fans of any faith to nip in for a prayer during their time watching football and supporting their teams.

#MosqueMeToo

An Egyptian-American journalist called Mona Eltahawy recently talked about her experience of sexual assault during Hajj in 2013. Since then #MosqueMeToo has started to grow. Muslim men and women from all round the world have been using the hashtag and in less than 24 hours it was tweeted 2,000 times.

Each year about 2 million Muslims undertake Hajj which is one of the five pillars of Islam. Going on this special pilgrimage should not involve being inappropriately touched or having someone rub against you in the crowd, things which have been reported using the #MosqueMeToo on Twitter. Some women have said they were fearful of publicising the harassment and sexual assaults incase it fuelled more Islamophobia.

Reading the BBC article you’ll stumble across key GCSE words such as:

Knowing that Hajj is a pilgrimage and one of the Five Pillars is not enough for the GCSE. You’ll need to know what the different parts of the Hajj are and why pilgrims participate in them. This isn’t a waste of time because by learning about Hajj you’ll understand some key stories of Islam about Ibrahim and discover Muslim beliefs about faith and forgiveness. These short videos from the BBC are a quick way to get that information. Type Hajj into this wordpress’ SEARCH engine and you’ll find previous links for Hajj too.

Umrah is the lesser pilgrimage made by Muslims to Mecca, which may be performed at any time of the year, and isn’t one of the five pillars so you don’t have to do it in your lifetime. In May 2017 football player Paul Pogba went on Umrah to say his thanks for Manchester United’s Europa League win.

Tawaf (Arabic: طواف) is one of the principal actions of the pilgrimage and refers to walking in circles around the Kaaba in an anti-clockwise motion. Seven complete circuits, with each one starting and ending at the Hajar al-Aswad (Black Stone), constitute one Tawaf. It is an act of devotion intended to bring the pilgrim closer to God spiritually. It is the only principal action of Hajj and Umrah which is not associated directly with acts of worship performed by the Prophet Ibrahim.

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The Hijab is one type of headscarf which Muslim women might wear to maintain a modest look so that their hair and body is not on show in public. Some people believe that what a woman wears can affect whether she is harassed in public. In Iran where women have to wear the hijab by law, a popular slogan on the walls of public buildings is “Hijab is not a limitation, it is your protection.”

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Massacre in Burma or is it Myanmar?

A group of people, the Rohingya (Muslim), have been fleeing their homes in their thousands this week and sharing stories with refugee, government and new agencies about their mistreatment in Burma/ Myanmar (majority Buddhist).  More than 160,000 of Burma/ Myanmar’s 1.1 million ethnic Rohingya minority have fled to Bangladesh, bringing with them stories that they say describe ethnic cleansing.

Ethnic cleansing – the mass expulsion or killing of members of one ethnic or religious group in an area by those of another.

FCO 303 - Bangladesh Travel Advice [WEB]

The leader in Burma/ Myanmar is Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who said in 1991: “Wherever suffering is ignored, there will be the seeds of conflict, for suffering degrades and embitters and enrages.” There is a petition that she is stripped of her Nobel Prize for not stopping and condemning the attacks on the Rohingya.

News agencies are being cautious with their language when reporting the story as there have also been reports of Rohingya terrorists attacking and killing Buddhists and Hindus. So when they report on a massacre against the Rohingya they use language like the Guardian cannot independently corroborate the villagers’ accounts to protect themselves if the stories do turn out not to be true.

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Moeen Ali: English cricketer

Full name Moeen Munir Ali

Born June 18, 1987, Birmingham

Current age 30 years

Major teams England, Worcestershire

Nickname Moe

Playing role Batting allrounder

Batting style Left-hand bat

Bowling style Right-arm offbreak

Height 6 ft 0 in

Education Moseley School

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Moeen has been making the sports headlines in recent days for his incredible hat-trick for England against South Africa in Test at Lord’s. Moeen is only the fourth man in Test history to seal victory with a hat-trick (see video) and the first for 60 years. It has helped England to now lead the series 2-1 with only the fourth Test at Old Trafford to play, starting on Friday.

In 2014 The Daily Telegraph criticised Moeen for his comment that he was playing for his religion: You’re playing for England, Moeen Ali, not your religion. The article referred to how Moeen who had been born in Birmingham 27 years ago to a Pakistani family, must have been proud walking out to bat for England for the first time on a sunlit day at Lord’s Cricket Ground, London. Yet before his big moment in a Test cricket game Moeen had spoken spoke of “representing the Muslim faith”, and of wearing his beard as “a label” and also as a “uniform” in the way that schoolchildren wore theirs. The article was unhappy about Moeen for bringing religion into it, as the journalist Michael Henderson believed it was just about the nation you represent:

“But there is one thing all players must acknowledge: if you are chosen to represent your country, that is who you represent. You may be a Hindu, a Sikh, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Jain or (chance’d be a fine thing) a Christian but that is not why you have been chosen. If Moeen Ali does not understand this matter, then perhaps Peter Moores, the England coach, can have a quiet word in his shell-like.”

Were the Telegraph right to have criticised Moeen Ali?

The Guardian newspaper today, was more interested in how Moeen believed that without cricket he would be on the streets and doing drugs. “If it wasn’t for cricket I don’t know what I’d be doing now,” he says. “I could have easily gone into that whole drugs line. I was pretty open to it because my friends were easily influenced. I get dared pretty easy. If someone dares me to do something I’ll just do it. I used to go: ‘Yeah, why not?’”

Moeen thinks that cricket initiatives in local communities can bring people together. He says. “There is such negativity in the media around Islam but when I play cricket for England I don’t have to say anything. I’m hoping people look at me and other Muslims and think: ‘Actually, it will be all right. They’re not too bad.’”

The Guardian continues their interview with Moeen by referring to an issue three years ago when, in Moeen’s fifth Test, against India at the Rose Bowl, he caused controversy on the second day by wearing wristbands which read “Save Gaza” and “Free Palestine”.

“It was humanitarian. I’m actually glad it happened even if I was a bit naive putting them on during the game. But it’s still very close to me. People are quiet but there’s still suffering in Gaza now. There is suffering in many Muslim and non-Muslim countries. We spend billions going into space and we can’t even look after people. I find that hard to accept. We’ve let each other down big time regardless of our colour, faith or community. We should help people without a political agenda. It should be done out of compassion, without hesitation. I find that [lack of compassion] the hardest thing to take these days.”

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Was Moeen Ali right three years ago to have worn charity bracelets with a political viewpoint whilst playing for the England cricket team?

Holy Sites in Jerusalem Re-Opened

Last Friday three Arab Israelis opened fire from a sacred site in Jerusalem which is called Noble (Haram Al Sharif) Sanctuary for Muslims and Temple Mount for Jews. Using automatic weapons the three Arab Israelis killed two police officers and were later shot dead inside the compound. The Holy Sites were re-opened today with stricter security checks.

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The Arab-Israeli conflict is only studied a little in British schools as the focus is on modern wars such as World War I and World War II. We take an initial look at the subject in Religious Studies when studying about pilgrimages and how Jerusalem is contested and valued by Muslims, Jews and Christians. A short BBC video explains the importance of Haram Al Sharif and Temple Mount, and there is a BBC Pictures special about the holy sites, explaining how through modern history there has been unrest over who the site belongs to. The history of the sites brings you closer to understanding both faiths, with important stories for Jews such as Abraham almost sacrificing his son Isaac there, and Temple Mount being where people will receive redemption when the Messiah arrives. Compared to Muslim stories of Muhammad PBUH  having his Night Journey from Makkah to Jerusalem to hear in heaven from Allah about prayer (salah, one of the five pillar of Islam).

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Pogba performs Umrah in Makkah to say ‘thank you’

Paul Pogba the French footballer who plays for Manchester United posted the following photo to his 15 million Instagram followers with the caption: “Most beautiful thing I’ve seen in my life 🕋🙏🏾

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He is wearing the ihram – a simple set of clothing consisting of two un-stitched sheets, with the Ka’bah behind him. The Ihram demonstrates that we are all equal before God no matter how rich or famous one may be.

Pogba also sent a tweet wishing everyone a “happy Ramadan”.  Out in Makkah he is attending Umrah, a non-compulsary Muslim pilgrimage. During Umrah, pilgrims do not go to Mina, Arafaat and Muzdalifah or throw pebbles on the Jamrahs (stone pillars representing devils) or offer animal sacrifice which we would know from Hajj. These rites are only performed during Hajj. Pogba is reported to have visited Makkah at least once before, when he performed the Hajj, a journey every healthy adult Muslim who can afford it is supposed to make at least once in their lives. Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam:

five pillarsThe 24-year-old became the most expensive footballer in history last summer, after Manchester United paid Juventus a reported £89m fee. Last Wednesday, he lifted the Europa League cup after Manchester United beat Ajax in the final in Stockholm. Here he is on the right with his team-mate Fellaini a Belgian international.

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It is no surprise that Pogba was in awe of the Ka’bah behind him.

The Ka’bah is a huge black stone structure that sits at the heart of the Grand Mosque, Islam’s most sacred place of worship. When Muslims pray as part of Salat they face the Ka’bah from wherever they are in the world. Some of its parts are connected to important episodes in Islamic tradition. On the eastern corner of the Ka’bah, to the left of the door, is the Black Stone, which according to Muslim tradition fell from heaven at the time of Adam and Eve. During Hajj pilgrims try to kiss the stone, emulating the kiss the Prophet Muhammad is believed to have placed on it.

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The cube-shaped structure is roughly 15 metres high, and it is about 10 by 14 metres at its base. Constructed of gray stone and marble, it is oriented so that its corners roughly correspond to the points of the compass. The interior contains nothing but the three pillars supporting the roof and a number of suspended silver and gold lamps.The Ka’bah is covered with the Kiswa which is a black brocade cloth. The Muslim declaration of faith, as well as Qu’ranic verses, are embroidered on it. A new Kiswa is made every year.

The Sunni-Shia Divide

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In the new AQA GCSE Religious Studies our students have to know more than just ‘Muslims believe…’ or ‘Muslims do…’ for their exam paper about Islam and instead need to be specific about the different types of Muslims and their specific beliefs. So in class we often refer to Sunni and Shia Muslims, and we try to specify when their beliefs and practises are different.

the roots

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The Council on Foreign Relations has a really interesting set of articles about the Sunni-Shia Divide which outlines the origins of the schism; modern tensions; practising the faith; sectarian militants and flash points.

Looking at the articles though I was left wondering who the Council on Foreign Relations were; we all need to check where our facts and knowledge are coming from, especially in 2017, when the media is so full of bias and fake news.

Interestingly the Council started in 1921 in the USA and has had all sorts of members from past presidents, media owners, Federal Judges and ambassadors. Below are its founding members:

about_cfr_founders

 

On its website it says it is ‘an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher’.

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We always need to check our source of information especially when there is so much politics involved in Religion.

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