While the English media condemns Islamophobic abuse against Mohamed Salah, it should look a little closer to home before pointing the finger
Like arsonists blaming the fire brigade, the finest minds in British journalism all agreed. The footage of Mo Salah being abused as a “f****** Muslim ****” by a West Ham fan had no place in football.
The incident took place during the first half of Monday night’s match 1-1 draw at the London Stadium, as Salah was about to take a corner and it received the condemnation of every media outlet, plus all but a handful of the most deranged members of the social-media commentariat.
The Met Police announced it was hunting the perpetrator. West Ham promised a lifetime ban for the culprit or culprits if they were caught and everyone sounded duly outraged.
“Shocking,” said both The Sun and The Mail. “Disgusting,” claimed the Express. “Sick,” was the verdict of The Daily Star.
“Surprising,” said absolutely no one.
Hate crimes against Muslims in the UK rose to a record level in 2018, with 1201 verified reports, an increase of 26 percent on the previous year. Less than a third of these attacks took place on online, the victims were predominantly female and the perpetrators predominantly, white, teenage males.
It isn’t a coincidence that this coincided with an escalation of Islamophobic stories in the UK media and specifically in the papers that condemned Salah’s abuser, in an act of weapons-grade hypocrisy.
The Mail runs front page stories warning of Muslim Ghettos. The Star is a mixture of soft porn and not so soft racism. The editor of the Express even admitted his paper’s front pages were “downright offensive” to a parliamentary select committee last August.
And in 2017, Sun columnist Trevor Kavanagh, sparked an avalanche of complaints when he wrote about “the Muslim problem,” although he was cleared by the UK’s press regulator, IPSO. By a happy coincidence, Kavanagh was a member of IPSO’s regulatory panel at the time, although they claim he played “no part in the adjudication.”
This was a snapshot of the UK media Mo Salah returned to when he signed for Liverpool from Roma in 2017.
Salah had been forgettable during a previous spell at Chelsea, but he scored 44 goals in 52 games and might have ended up with a Champions League medal if he hadn’t been taken out by a Sergio Ramos “reducer” that was a classic of the genre, during the early stages of the final.
By any measurement his improvement was astonishing. In 2012-13 he was scoring a goal every five games for Basel in the Swiss league. Last season he averaged nearly a goal per game in the self-styled greatest league in the world.
Liverpool’s fans, unsurprisingly, gave Salah a universal declaration of love.
— Mohamed Salah (@MoSalah) January 28, 2019
They even came up with a song for him, rewriting the lyrics to Dodgy’s 1996 hit “Good Enough” …
“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 then sitting in a mosque is where I wanna be.”
Not only had Salah made Merseyside fall in love with Islam, he’d even rehabilitated a toweringly mediocre 90s pop song. Even now it’s difficult to say which is the greater achievement.
So while Monday night’s incident was indeed “sickening” it was just one, mentally defective individual in a crowd of nearly 60,000. England’s football fans aren’t nearly as Islamophobic as its newspapers editors.