The Muslim Sports Foundation (MSF) was born out of historic inequalities and barriers faced by our community in terms of equal access and participation in physical activity and sports - disparities that were later exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
We are a national organisation representing the voice and serving the needs of the community and, as such, we have implemented programmes and initiatives up and down the country targeting areas of the highest deprivation. Including recent work supported by Sport England, through the Together Fund.
Our vision is based on creating sustainable programmes that provide a holistic solution to the disparities faced by our communities.
At MSF, we work closely with strategic partners, national governing bodies (NGBs) and affiliates but, critically, the foundation establishes its own community development programmes via our tremendously successful delivery arm Ansar (helpers).
Ansar is our very own safe-based platform of inclusive and effective engagement, and through it we have recorded participation from mixed ethnic and national backgrounds, including children from diverse and deprived socio-economic groups across the country, with sessions and programmes designed to nurture people's physical, psychological, and spiritual needs.
Islam, sport and physical activity
The Islamic identity has a universal factor that harnesses a sense of commonality through shared daily routines (prayers, supplications and ritualistic traditions) dietary requirements, religious observations and festivals (Ramadhan and Eid).
Historically, Muslims within the UK have been labelled as belonging to the specific continents or geographic locations that their ancestors immigrated from, but this historic failing and misrepresentation doesn’t acknowledge or addresses the concept of an emerging and independent British Muslim identity.
Also traditionally, there has been an evident failure to effectively engage these key communal institutes, leading to a lack of trust in major national organisations and government initiatives.
We understand from our consultation work that there are critical barriers and failures when it comes to engaging Muslim communities in sport, including islamophobia, poor engagement strategies, taboos around Islamic dress code and other historical factors that are divisive and create 'otherness' for British Muslims.
Failure to recognise and accommodate the above factors has played a significant role in the status quo of Muslims being the least active of all religious denominations.
Our research, engagement and experience dictated that a key strategic part of the Muslim community is the local Mosque and evening school (Madrassahs).
So, we thought we should incorporate these in order to tackle the historic neglect and negative perception of the relation between Islam and sport and physical activity.
And that’s how last month the MSF decided to use mosques and madrassahs as the locations for our national campaign, ‘Active Sunnah‘.