A study conducted by Stanford University has found that hate crimes and Islamophobic behaviour have dropped significantly in Merseyside since the arrival of Egyptian football star Mohamed Salah at Liverpool in 2017.
The study -- published on 31 May and entitled ‘Can Exposure to Celebrities Reduce Prejudice? The Effect of Mohamed Salah on Islamophobic Behaviors and Attitudes’ -- shows that hate crimes in Merseyside have dropped by 18.9 percent. No similar drop was found for other types of crime, and the anti-Muslim sentiments of Liverpool fans has halved relative to fans of other English clubs.
The research was conducted using 936 county-month hate crime observations, 15 million tweets from UK soccer fans, and an original survey experiment of 8,060 Liverpool FC fans.
"The survey experiment suggests that these results may be driven by increased familiarity with Islam. Our findings indicate that positive exposure to outgroup role models can reveal new information that humanises the outgroup writ large," the study reads
Salah has become a phenomenon in English football but his impact has spread far beyond the sport. Last season he nabbed the Premier League player of the year and top scorer awards shattering several domestic records on course.
The “Egyptian King,” who will turn 27 on 15 June, has won this season's Golden Boot as well and led Liverpool to win their first UEFA Champions League title since 2005.
Last April, he was named one of the Time 100 Most influential People of 2019.
"The centrality of Salah’s Muslim identity to these chants (made by Liverpool fans at his name) fueled media speculation that his success might be reducing Islamophobia among fans. European fans were not accustomed to seeing players prostrate in Muslim prayer (sujood) after scoring goals. So emblematic is Salah’s sujood that the celebration is included in the video game FIFA 2019, played by millions worldwide. Salah’s conspicuous Islamic practice at the most elite level of global soccer is arguably unprecedented. Some pundits argued that Salah portrayed favorable images of Muslims, helping to reduce stereotypes and break down barriers within communities," the report added.
"Salah is often seen joking with his 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.
“By watching games, post-game interviews, promotional videos released by the club, and content on Salah’s social media pages, fans are exposed to rich information about Salah’s life on and off the field. Viewers see what a Muslim prayer looks like, perhaps for the first time, when Salah scores.
"Few Muslims in British public life have been as open about their Muslim identity, and are as well-liked, as Salah.
"The public image of Salah as a hero of sorts, and the resulting normalisation of some Muslim identities practices, may have dampened the appetite for harassment and violence toward the city’s Muslims."
Salah is now in Egypt and will play the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations on home soil from 21 June to 19 July.
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