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4 Ways that London 2012 Made Muslims Feel Welcome

4 Ways that London 2012 Made Muslims Feel Welcome

Every time you look at the news, you can't help but be hit by at least one Islamophobic story. Well, at least that is the way I felt for a long time. Whether it was a scare over how halal food was infiltrating British supermarkets or indignation over how Muslims were all inherently bent on the violent destruction of Western civilization – I despaired of ever seeing Muslims being treated with a modicum of decency and respect. Then came the London Olympics and I was pleasantly surprised to find an altogether different picture.

4. Visibly Muslim Volunteers


Out of the different organisations that were involved in volunteering for the games, there were many who hired people who looked visibly Muslim. Whether it was security guards with long beards or stewards with hijabs, this must have seemed incredibly lax for those countries that are currently debating whether to ban any outward sign of Islamic faith in their citizens. In fact, the global audience watching the games must have noticed that there were Muslims participating in the opening, closing and medal ceremonies. To put this in context, a summer camp in France recently fired 3 Muslim men just because they were fasting. Meanwhile, some Muslim stewards at the Olympics went about their duty with a Qurʾān in hand to benefit as much as possible from recitation during Ramadan.

3. Olympic village canteen open all night for fasting athletes

It was a topic of much fascination in the British media that the Olympics would coincide with Ramadan. Without being judgmental, most articles reflected the wide variety of opinions out there with some athletes choosing to continue fasting, others to postpone till later in the year and still others to pay for the meal of 60 poor people in expiation. The Olympic organising committee prepared for any eventuality by making sure that the canteen in the athletes village was open 24 hours a day so that Muslims could take suhoor if they so wanted. Compare that to most international hotels who still don't offer such services and you realise what a nice gesture this is.

2. Allowing da‘wah in/ around the Olympic park


Muslims are used to being persecuted or at the very least being harassed for undertaking work inviting others to Islam. The level of difficulties varies from country to country. However, during the Olympics, Muslim groups actively went about in large groups giving da‘wah in and around the Olympic park. Armed with flashy leaflets, Qurans and a zeal for the faith, Muslims competed with Christians, Vegans and even the odd chicken to gain new converts from the huge crowds enjoying the sporting events. Without fear of persecution, Muslims operated in that rarest of areas – a level playing field.

1. Celebrating Muslim Olympians

By far, one of the most heartening sights of the Olympics was to see largely non-Muslim crowds deliver standing ovations for Muslim athletes. Whether it was for Mohamed Farah (the Muslim double gold medal winner) or Sarah Attar (the hijabi Saudi athelete who finished last in her competition), the crowds in the Olympic stadium had been generous and vocal in their support and appreciation. What the motives for the applause are can be debated for a long time, but it makes a welcome change from the abuse and suspicion that Muslims are so used to in other times and places.

Of course, we know that it is not out of an appreciation for Islam that Muslims were treated with a degree of sensitivity. This article is also not about the Islamic rulings on various aspects of the Olympics and being involved in them. However, in a day and age when other countries are tripping over themselves to ban halal food, circumcision, the hijab, niqab and almost anything else associated with our faith, the London 2012 Olympics made a welcome change.

dawah quran

About Muhammad Wajid Akhter

Although originally from India, Wajid grew up in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia where he began learning Islamic sciences from an early age. After moving to the UK, he went to Medical School where he founded the University of London Union Islamic Societies (ULU ISoc) and the Charity Week for Orphans project in 2003. He currently serves on the Board of Advisers for the latter. He is passionate about uniting the Muslim youth in general and Islamic history in particular.

22 comments

  1. I’m so glad you wrote this article, as I noticed it too! I really love the UK, Alhamdulillah it is a lovely place to be a Muslim peacefully. Just today on my way home I noticed banners on the major supermarkets saying ‘Eid Mubarak! Stock up for Eid!’. Obviously its advertising, but its still heart warming :)

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  2. Tfs. Nice article. Also prayer rooms were provided for the Muslims :)

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  3. No surprise reading this! The place where there is provision for prayers at work and halal food in canteens then making the London Olympics a welcoming place for Muslim athletes was a doddle. Especially in Stratford, near the East End.

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  4. Jazakallah khair for this very interesting post!

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  5. alhamdulillah, Allahu Akbar

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  6. Thank you for this article! I had no idea about all this. Being from SA (and currently out of a TV) I was totally out of the loop with regards to the Olympics. It really is a heart warming feeling to know that people have been tolerant towards Muslims and the Muslim faith.

    I am not sure how much people from around the world know what’s happening in South Africa, but recently a 27 year old Muslim brother was beaten and eventually passed away for sporting a beard. A small argument broke out over the beard of the deceased at a food outlet in SA which lead to the death of a fellow Muslim brother. It is not common here, thankfully, but the pain and worry of such things becoming increasingly common is something that can’t be shaken off. Read the full article here: http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/Two-held-for-Kazis-murder-20120812

    May Allah help us all.

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  7. Have you seen this, 500 Muslims at the London2012 Olympics: http://youtu.be/QpGPSx-hQjo

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    • Walaikum asalaam,

      I have. MashaAllah iERA is doing a lot of amazing work… The thing I like best about it is that rather than everyone doing their own thing, they are able to come together and be coordinated, share best practice and “professionalise” dawah.

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  8. Shaukat Warraich

    AA Wajid great article, we delivered a programme called Iftar 2012, which hosted Olympic teams for Iftar with the Muslim community in London and other parts of the UK, The iftars hosted were also attended by UK Government Ministers and Olympic dignitaries, have a look at some of the work, jzk
    http://www.iftar2012.com/blog

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    • Walaikum asalaam,

      I knew of the Iftars but I didn’t see the website before. What an amazing initiative mashaAllah. And the website is well made too.

      We need more initiatives like this inshaAllah. JazakAllah khairun for sharing.

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  9. As salaam alaikum,
    This was nice to read, alhamdulillah, but we have to be careful not to overlook that there are people in various countries still hostile to Muslims and Islam. Someone shared a link about the rash of attacks on Muslim places of worship, and I think we should reflect on being here in America or wherever. A sister in niqaab was brutally attacked in Belgium earlier this year (it’s on youtube, and I’m sorry I don’t have the link). That video should be viewed by all sisters. Sisters here in America have had hostile experiences when they are not with their husbands that they don’t even report to the authorities. In these last few days of Ramadan, we need to evaluate if it’s in our best interests to stay in countries where hostility towards Islam is growing, not dissipating. May Allah protect the Muslims. Ameen.

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  10. Thanks for the article – I was completely blown away by the multicultural celebration of the Olympics and as a muslim woman in hijab I had never been made to feel more welcome at Wembley Stadium! Your article sums it up in a measured and balanced way. We have a lot to celebrate in Britain and likewise as you and other bloggers have written we must be mindful of where our practices are not only scorned upon, but violently attacked. In fact it is our religious duty to lobby our government, especially at a time when London has shown how all walks of life play an essential part in a nation, to speak out at international level against the constant humiliation of our brothers and sisters in foreign lands. The time has come to use this positive energy to highlight the plight of those living in more ignorant societies.

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  11. who is the girl in green , looks british ,, is she praying or running !!

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  12. And let’s not forget, they also got a hijabi Egyptian lady to referee the beach volleyball matches :)

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  13. Assalammu Alaikum Wajid Bhai. We are really inspired in many ways from such initiatives. I am quire impressed the work of iERA too. The arguments put forth by brother Tzortzis is amazing and i personally used in my discussion. May Peace and blessings of Allah (SWT) be upon u and all Muslims in the world

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  14. The image of the people in blue ‘Team Islam’ were actually from a banned group in the UK. You’re better off putting a picture of someone in yellow from iERA =)
    http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.413656182004216.87245.129061487130355&type=3

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