Liverpool FC’s signing of Mo Salah may be behind a significant fall in Islamophobia in the city, according to a new study.
Researchers at Stanford University’s Immigration Policy Lab found a 18.9% drop in hate crimes since the Muslim striker joined the club in June 2017.
No other type of offence saw a similar reduction.
Anti-Muslim tweets from Liverpool fans dropped by half in the same period.
By examining 15 million tweets from football fans and surveying 8,060 Liverpool supporters, the authors wrote: “Taken together, the evidence points to Salah’s rise in prominence causing a decrease in hate crimes in Liverpool FC’s home county.”
Alexandra Siegel, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Immigration Policy Lab, told HuffPost UK that Liverpool and Salah became the focus of their study after “hearing chants from Liverpool fans such as ‘If he scores another few then I’ll be Muslim too’.”
She added: “The “Salah effect” is an example of how positive exposure to a high profile individual from an under-represented minority group can reduce prejudice toward that group at large.”
A prominent Muslim, Salah has become a role model not only for his home country of Egypt but for the Arab nation as a whole.
The 26-year-old was named in Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2019 earlier this year.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said at the time: “I’m very proud of that, because people in football, we are obviously on television, in newspapers a lot, and most of the time we don’t say very smart things,” said Klopp.
“But Mo is a very smart person and his role is very influential. He said a couple of really good things and inspired, hopefully, some people on one side to think about a few things, and on the other side he got other people aware of him.
“In the world at the moment, it is very important that you have people like Mo.”
Salah’s four-year-old daughter has also become something of a star. Last month, while the players were walking out of the Liverpool stadium, she started to dribble the ball from the penalty area, and took her own shot at scoring a goal and getting a huge response from the crowd.
Siegel said: “We hope that future work can exploit a similar design to explore the impact of other minority public figures — in diverse contexts — on prejudice.
“Such work will help us to better assess the conditions under which we should expect to see a ‘Salah effect’ and offer new potential avenues for building social cohesion around the globe.”