Wembley hears Ramadan call to prayer at 'very positive' iftar

Campaigners for Muslim inclusion in sport among 300 guests at home of English football

Mohammed Ismaeel Asif led a call to prayer at the Wembley pitchside before guests broke their Ramadan fast. Getty Images
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A Muslim call to prayer rang out at Wembley Stadium at a "very positive" Ramadan event on inclusion in football.

More than 300 people were invited to the iftar, featuring dishes of lamb, chicken and paneer, at the home of English football.

The sixth iftar to take place at Wembley was hosted by the Football Association's head of equality, diversity and inclusion, Yasir Mirza.

Among the guests were campaigners for Muslim inclusion in sport, including a group of female fans called the Three Hijabis who work on tackling racism and discrimination.

The FA's tone was "very positive, very keen to engage with people and communities, putting them front and centre", one of the trio, Shaista Aziz, told The National.

She said there was an acknowledgement from the FA of the rise in anti-Muslim hatred observed in Britain since the Israel-Gaza war erupted.

However, she said the football world has not spoken out about Palestinian footballers killed during Israel's campaign.

"We are clearly very aware of the fact that our wider Muslim family, in Gaza in particular, are suffering," she said.

"We get to eat food for our iftar, they're struggling to find water. We've seen images of people boiling grass and eating grass as their iftar."

The Wednesday call to prayer, made from the side of the famous Wembley pitch, was led by Mohammad Faisal Asif of the Ramadan Tent Project.

The guests also included Nilesh Chauhan, the manager of a diversity campaign at the Football Supporters' Association; and Zesh Rehman, a Muslim first-team coach at Portsmouth.

Mr Chauhan said it was truly uplifting to be "surrounded by the spirit of unity and the community" at the Wembley event.

Guests heard a video message from the England men's team manager Gareth Southgate, who has been praised for fostering an inclusive atmosphere around the side.

“As the governing body of English football, we know the importance of connecting faith communities with our national sport,” said the FA's Mr Mirza.

Also represented was the Muslim Sports Foundation, with marketing manager Sahiba Majeed speaking about encouraging more women to enter football.

While women's football in England is enjoying a boom, campaigners say there are barriers to the participation of Muslim girls such as fear of racist abuse and a lack of role models.

The iftar was part of a series called Faith and Football. Wembley previously hosted a Christian worship in December and a celebration of the Sikh festival Vaisakhi.

Manchester City hosted an iftar at the Etihad Stadium in March, with hundreds of people breaking their fast in suites overlooking the pitch.

Brentford's Gtech Community Stadium hosted an event by the same organisers, Ramadan Tent Project, who run open iftars where anyone is welcome.

Updated: April 05, 2024, 8:39 AM