Mostafa Mohamed, an Egyptian footballer who plays for the French club Nantes, was recently fined by his team for refusing to take part in a match against Toulouse. Mohammad refused to play after the French football league decided to mark the international day against homophobia, transphobia and biphobia by having all players wear rainbow-colored numbers on their shirt. Responding to the incident on Twitter, Mohamed wrote: "I did not participate in the Toulouse-Nantes match today. I don’t want to argue at all, but I have to state my position. Respect for differences means respect for others, [but also] respect for oneself. Respect for what is shared and what remains different. I respect all differences. I respect all beliefs and convictions. This respect extends to others but also includes respect for my personal beliefs. Given my roots, my culture and the importance of my convictions and beliefs, it was not possible for me to participate in this campaign. I hope that my decision will be respected, as well as my wish not to argue about this and that everyone should be treated with respect."
The French football league's pro-LGBT campaign, and the decision of Mohamed's team to fine him for refusing to take part in it, sparked fury in Egypt. Al-Azhar, the most important religious and jurisprudential institute in the Sunni Muslim world, which frequently issues statements against homosexuality, came to Mustafa Mohamed's support. In its statement it called homosexuality "poison" and "immoral behavior," and condemned what it called the use of sports to promote ideas "that contravene human nature" in the guise of promoting freedom and respect for the other.
Articles in the Egyptian press, and in particular in the state daily Al-Ahram, likewise came to Mustafa Mohamed's support and praised him for standing up for his values even at a cost to his career. The articles accused the West of applying a double standard: it purports to defend freedom and pluralism, but at the same time it imposes its values on the members of other religions and cultures, and practices discrimination based on ethnicity, religion and skin color.
The following are translated excerpts from Al-Azhar's statement and from the Egyptian articles on this affair:
Al-Azhar: The Football Pitch Has Become A Platform For Spreading Immorality Disguised As Freedom
In response to the punitive measures taken against Mostafa Mohamed for refusing to wear the pro-gay jersey, the Al-Azhar Observer issued a statement on May 22, 2023 in which it expressed solidarity with Mostafa and condemned homosexuality, calling it "poison" and "immorality" that "contravenes human nature." The statement said that "sports and other domains in the world have become platforms for those who condone immoral ideas and behaviors. [These people] have transformed the playing fields and other places into tools for spreading their ideological poisons in the guise of freedom, pluralism and acceptance of people who are different, even if their difference contravenes human nature and the directives of the religions… The Al-Azhar Observer demands to provide a sports environment that respects human nature and the religious beliefs of the players, and does not use the playing field to promote reprehensible goals…"
Al-Ahram Board Chairman: The West Touts Freedom And At The Same Time Opposes It; Homosexuality Is Destructive
As stated, solidarity with Mostafa Mohamed and criticism of the measures taken against him were also expressed in Egyptian press articles, especially in the state daily Al-Ahram. 'Abd Al-Mohsen Salama, the chairman of the daily's board of directors, praised Mohamed for refusing to participate in the pro-gay campaign, saying that he deserves "every respect and appreciation" for defending his values and culture. Salama wrote: "There is something strange about the West: it touts freedom, yet it is also the first to renounce it. That is what happened to the Egyptian international professional [football] player Mostafa Mohamed, who plays for the French football club Nantes, when he refused to promote homosexuality and to participate in a match meant to support gays, and to wear a jersey with a gay symbol on it.
"This sparked an uproar that has yet to die down. The player will probably be fired… for taking this stance, although he has clarified publicly that he refuses to participate in activities of this sort because they contravene his beliefs, his views and his culture, but at the same time stressed that he respects others, believes in the freedom to be different and honors different beliefs and opinions.
"The fundamental principle of freedom is mutual respect: respecting others and being respected by them… The West's problem is that it sees only itself. It respects only its own culture while scorning other cultures and refusing to understand them. That is the greatest flaw in Western culture. Outwardly [the Westerners] are tolerant, free and open, but they only identify with their own position and do not try to understand others who are different from them.
"[Sexual] perversion and homosexuality is a destructive culture that floods the West with violence. There are many who oppose it, but they cannot say this out loud, for fear of being persecuted, fired and pressured.
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"Mostafa Mohamed is an international Egyptian player who deserves respect and appreciation, just like [his fellow Egyptian footballer] Mohamed Salah and other Egyptian stars – for they all have [their own] declared culture, opinions and roots, but at the same time they respect others, understand that others have a right to disagree [with them], and want this respect to be mutual and for everyone to enjoy freedom, not just the gays."
Egyptian Columnist: Mostafa Mohamed Is A Man Who Honors His Religion And Tradition
Al-Ahram columnist Hani 'Asal likewise praised Mustafa Mohamed for refusing to wear "the shirt of shame," calling him "a real man" and "a real Egyptian" who honors his religion and his tradition. He too accused the West of hypocrisy for championing freedom, liberalism and human rights but at the same time denying them to others. He wrote: "What the professional Egyptian football player [Mustafa Mohamed] did… proves that he is a real man and a real Egyptian who respects his religion, tradition and customs, his homeland and his manliness, even if his position will cost him his job and some of his income. The 25-year-old Mustafa refused to participate in the league match between his team, the French Nantes, and Toulouse because they tried to force the players on both teams to wear a pro-gay jersey. In fact, they decided to dedicate all the matches in the series to this propaganda goal that contravenes not only religion but also the values, customs, traditions, honor and manliness of Mustafa and others like him, and the views of many of the players. [It also contravenes] the rules of FIFA, which is always loudly demanding to keep other controversial issues out of sports! Mustafa was not the only one who decided not to play. He was joined by five [sic.] other players, of various nationalities and religions, from both teams…
"This is not the first time there was a clash between Mustafa's position and culture and Western culture, which makes a habit of imposing its values on others, in Europe and beyond. He was forced to choose between fasting and participating in matches during Ramadan this year, a problem [that arises] every year in European series…
"Mustafa did not participate in the wretched match in Toulouse. He went there with his team, but stayed behind at the hotel, along with the other boycotting players… After the game he stressed that he did not want to argue with anyone over this issue, but said that honoring differences means respecting the other [but also] oneself. [It means] respecting both the differing values and the shared ones. He added that he respects all opinions and beliefs, but that this applies to the opinions of others but also to his own views, and that his roots and his culture preclude him from taking part in this campaign, and clarified: 'I hope that my decision will be respected, as well as my wish not to argue about this'…
"A person who moves to another country, especially [to a country where] society purports to [champion] freedom, tolerance and respect for the other – does he bring his beliefs and opinions with him, or is he expected to 'give them away' before he can be granted a passport with a visa to the promised Eden he wishes to reach?
"The 'shirt of shame' Mustafa refused to wear revealed the eternal schizophrenia of the West, which causes it to impose on others values that it itself does not believe in and does not implement, starting with the lie of democracy itself and ending with the slogans of freedom, liberalism and human rights… Oh Mustafa, you did the right thing…"
Egyptian Columnist: The West Purports To Defend Human Rights And Freedoms, But In Practice It Is Hypocritical And Racist
Al-Ahram columnist Sharif 'Abadin claimed that many Muslim athletes playing in Europe have encountered the same treatment as Mustafa Mohamed. He too accused the West of hypocrisy, saying that it preaches freedom yet practices discrimination and racism based on religion and skin color, as evident from its policies of admitting refugees. He wrote:
"He who lives in a glass house should not throw stones. This proverb… reflects the behavior of [some] people, societies and states. The West always presents positions that purport to [promote] ideals such as respect for human, minority and animal rights. [It] spreads these positions beyond the Western world, targeting any country it believes does not have a good enough record in terms of rights and freedoms…
"The punishment imposed on our brave Egyptian professional [football] player Mustafa Mohamed, who plays for France, just because he refused to wear a pro-gay shirt, is just one example in a black list, pages and pages long, of the West's hypocritical actions. Europe has an unfortunate record of political double standards and of turning a blind eye to actions that discriminate between people based on their identity, religion and skin color. It also allows politics to interfere in sports, religion and beliefs, based on its interests and whims!
"Dozens of Muslim players on Europe's playing fields have experienced what Mustafa has experienced, which exposes the West's false pretense of [respecting] rights and freedoms. Worse, they were shocked [to discover] that the West does not bat an eyelid as it practices the ugliest kind of racism, not only in sports but also in its treatment of [refugees] who have lost their homes and their homeland, for it is skin color and nationality that determine whether [the West] welcomes and defends them!..."
 Elbalad.news, May 18, 2023.
 It should be noted that four players on the Toulouse team – the Moroccan Zakaria Aboukhlal, the Algerian Farès Chaïb, the Bosnian Said Hamulić and the Malian Moussa Diarra – also refused to take part in the match for the same reason (aljazeera.net, mubasher.aljazeera.net, May 15, 2023).
 Twitter.com/mmostafa_11, May 15, 2023.
 On Al-Azhar's stance on LGBT issues, see MEMRI reports: Inquiry & Analysis No. 88 - Egyptian Press: 'Since Egyptian Gays Have No Rights, Their Rights Need No Defense' – March 6, 2022; Inquiry & Analysis No. 1621 - Religious Authorities Across The Muslim World: Homosexuality Is A Dangerous Abomination That The West Is Trying To Impose On Us – February 2, 2022; Special Dispatch No. 10378 - Deputy Sheikh Of Al-Azhar: Homosexuality Is Same As Terrorism; Both Threaten Social Stability – December 14, 2022.
 On Egypt's treatment of gays, see Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1625 - Controversy In Arab Press About Arabic Netflix Film 'No Dearer Friends' – February 14, 2022; Special Dispatch No. 9719 - Egyptian Writer: Gays Have Rights In Islam, Must Not Be Harmed – January 12, 2022; Special Dispatch No. 9253 - Gay Egyptian Man Describes Plight Of Egyptian LGBT Community Through His Own Personal Story – March 25, 2021;
Special Dispatch No. 6157 - The U.S. Supreme Court Decision Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage: Arab Artists In Favor, Arab Press Against – September 10, 2015.
 Facebook.com/AlazharObserver, May 22, 2023.
 Al-Ahram (Egypt), May 18, 2023.
 Al-Ahram (Egypt), May 17, 2023.
 Al-Ahram (Egypt), May 24, 2023.