This year, the start of Ramadan will likely coincide with the fiercest phase of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. On or near June 28th, a real Hunger Games will begin for Muslim players, whose behavior while at the global tournament — and with the holy month upon us – is guided by trainers and spiritual advisers. But where do millions of football fans turn for guidance on “fair play” during the competition?
If you’re watching the games in the seductive “Home of Samba”, a bearded mascot called Salaminho is ready to lend a hand! He stars in a free guide that offers tips to visitors on how to observe Islam while in Brazil. It’s one of several initiatives produced by Brazil’s Federation of Muslim Associations (FAMBRAS) to “help dispel prejudice and ignorance of Islam”, according to FAMBRAS vice president, Ali Hussein El Zoghbi, .
Their “Salam Brazil” project caps 3 years of work under the auspices of Brazil’s Supreme Council of Imams and Islamic Affairs. FAMBRAS will hand out 65,000 copies of their Muslim Fan Guide which details prayer times, mosque locations in host cities, emergency services, and venue details.
The Muslim population is a fraction of Brazil’s estimated 202 million people, but growing from an influx of refugees from Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. Over 50,000 Muslim fans are expected to visit, mainly from Iran, Nigeria and Algeria, but also from the US, UK, Malaysia and the Gulf. FAMBRAS sees this as a fantastic chance to spread the positive word of Islam to non-Muslims. Good stuff!
But how are fans supposed to keep it halal and cope with epic Brazilian partying? Sensual dance and seductive drink? Challenging temptations anytime to be sure, but impossibly difficult during therestrictive Ramadan season.
Conservative clerics are dissuading people from watching the games altogether, pointing to Brazilian protests that spotlight underlying corruption and negative impacts to local communities (an estimated 250,000 people have been displaced from urban favelas to allow World Cup development). Haram, to be sure! But enough to incite the faithful to turn off their TVs? Will they forego Tarawih prayers to watch football? How do you deter people from doing things they should already know not to do?
Football fans are a species known to get rowdy and raucous at the best of times. When world cup fever sets in, how do you keep the Muslim fans from getting their hooligan on but keeping it halal!?
It’s a personal decision, and there’s plenty about Brazil that can be enjoyed halal-style and that doesn’t come with string bikinis and sex on the beach. Yet there is no handy guide to help navigate temptation. Football is big, with an estimated 3.2 billion spectators tuning in for at least a minute of play. But will Ramadan prove bigger?
Originally published on www.albawaba.com