Christmas-themed photos shared by Egyptian footballer Mohamed Salah have angered some of his Muslim fans, many of whom took to social media to express their discontent.
The Liverpool forward posted pictures of himself and his family dressed in matching festive-themed onesies, posing in front of a large Christmas tree, on Friday.
It is the third consecutive year in which Salah’s Christmas pictures have caused upset, with fans writing that it was inappropriate for a Muslim to engage in the religious customs of another faith.
But many others defended the footballer. Some said that, for many people, Christmas was now a cultural holiday rather than a religious one.
They said people of various faiths wear Santa hats and watch Christmas-themed films during the festive period.
Amr Adib, Egypt’s most famous talk show host, interviewed Salah earlier this month.
He addressed the backlash the footballer had received on Sunday’s episode of his show El Hekaya.
Adib vehemently defended Salah during the episode. He said people should not interpret Salah’s actions as contrary to his faith, but rather assimilation of the customs of England, where he now lives.
In an impassioned defence of the footballer, Adib said he thought there was nothing wrong with Salah’s photos.
“He is just spending time with his children in front of a Christmas tree,” he said.
The backlash over the pictures followed an interview Salah gave to Adib that prompted another outcry from some of the footballer’s Muslim fans.
During the interview, Adib asked the footballer whether he drinks alcohol when he is offered it, and Salah responded by explaining that he doesn’t drink because he never feels the urge to do so.
After the interview, broadcast on December 5, commentators took to social media to criticise Salah for not making it clear that his reason for not drinking was that it is forbidden in Islam.
“Alcohol is absolutely prohibited by Islam,” one person wrote on Twitter. “Your desire to drink it has nothing to do with it. You have to be proud to be a Muslim.”
Salah is one of the most prominent Muslim athletes in the world. He is extremely popular in Egypt and abroad, and his posts are considered highly influential on his millions of followers.
Egypt’s Dar Al Iftaa, the country’s foremost Islamic advisory, judiciary and government body, made several posts on social media alluding to the interview.
“Not thinking of engaging in vices is worship in and of itself,” he wrote in one, prompting criticism from some Muslims who felt it was glorifying Salah.
Later that day, Dar Al Iftaa made a second post asserting that “the prohibition of drinking alcohol is a fixture in the texts of the Qur’an, the Sunnah and the consensus of all Muslims”.