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Having explored that old neighbourhood earlier in the day, I was delighted to see one of its old faces at the mosque. We reminisced.

It was at once intimately familiar and obviously different, as if my memory of the mosque were being reflected back through a funhouse mirror. The furniture and the faces were the same, but distorted by time, and the prayer hall was now triple the size, having expanded into the neighbouring properties. The clapped-out chimney was gone. In its place: a minaret taller than any steeple in the vicinity, an upright middle-finger that scratched the sky with a painted, silver nail.

The community had lifted off. With money came modernisation. There were management committees and subcommittees, elections and annual general meetings, gift aid and charitable status — exacerbated by my father with his Bengali proclivity for paperwork. The maulvi was buried in bureaucracy, while the time-honoured tasks of the imam were being taken over by television clerics, internet muftis, Islamic apps that advised you about prayers, translated Arabic texts, told you the meanings of names or the meanings of dreams.

The flock was finding its way without the shepherd. They gave the maulvi a laptop to attend to business; he only used it to go on fanzines and forums. He was a man of the spirit, and the new ways crushed his. Football nourished it. The more the mosque resembled an office, the more he venerated Old Trafford as the true tabernacle. If he squinted, it even looked like the Grand Mosque at Mecca, with the stadium lights doubling as minarets. The congregation was now so wealthy that my father hired an assistant imam.

Maulvi Mohammed did not know who or what Averroes was. He knew practically nothing of the canon of Islamic law. He had only instinct. The pair soon got into a covert feud via their sermons on alternate Fridays. In the end, it was a scandal around the iconography of football kits that did for him.


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In the old days, Maulvi Mohammed would be seen off-duty in his United shirt without any controversy. But Old Mr Darzi — now Haji Darzi — recently returned from a pilgrimage to Mecca with a puritanical fervour, spotted the maulvi on Cheetham Hill Road in the famous red shirt. He tipped off the younger imam, who filed a complaint with my father.

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Apparently, the Manchester United crest, with the Lucifer figure at its centre, made a heathen of the imam. He was called before a disciplinary hearing.


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The night before the hearing Maulvi Mohammed called on Gimpel for advice. The unruly rabbi had had enough run-ins of his own with the Greater Manchester Beth Din. It happened to be the Sabbath, and over kugel they prepared a defence. Maulvi Mohammed was intrigued; it was his faith in the club that sustained him now the community had turned. But I could put in a word for you? Like Old Trafford. The maulvi stood up, so boisterously his skullcap fell off. The next day Maulvi Mohammed turned up to the hearing. I was in the prayer hall then. I saw him march across into the office, take his place, and salaam his inquisitors.

But then I saw the crook of a cane reaching to shut the door, and I never got to witness what transpired inside. The mosque had asked me to put them in order. Everything was there, from the behemothic constitution — every amendment made physically by my father with the aid of a Tipp-Ex — to the minutes of every meeting, including the hearing. The full minutes make for fascinating reading, detailing the precise moment the Cheetham Hill Mosque and Islamic Centre surrendered to certain global, ineluctable currents in the history of Islam:.

The Prophet P. In that spirit, I like football and I support a team. In common with most members of my congregation, that team is Manchester United. It is merely a nickname. The Manchester United shirt has a red devil in its crest, and everyone knows that figure refers to Manchester United, not to Shaytan. Only out of ignorance or malice could anyone think I am a Satanist.

Ignorance and malice would be grounds for a disciplinary hearing, not innocently wearing a football shirt. More than that, I wish not to speak ill of my colleagues, though they may of me. Maulvi was informed that, in interest of fairness, committee had sought independent opinion from a mufti recommended by Asst.

Maulvi Khan. This obtains regardless of the interpretation of the images. Sunni orthodoxy rejects contemporary iconological hermeneutics that interpret images contextually. No context can justify the glorification of Shaytan. And Allah, most high, knows best. After some deliberation, Sec. Haji Darzi added that he had somewhere read that Saracens have won the Premiership many times. This, Sec. Sahib asked whether Maulvi was aware that employment of fanatics by Cheetham Hill mosque is untenable. Ex-Maulvi said that he had no regrets. It was an honour, he said, to sacrifice himself to bear witness to the truth.

He would now be moving on to the paradise he had dreamt of all his life: Manchester United F. He has written about literature, politics and the arts for the Financial Times, the Guardian and Prospect, and his short stories have been published in Story Quarterly and Hourglass.


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His other interests include literary translation. Twitter: mitteleuropean. Home Fiction Nonfiction Poetry Writers.

The game was further proof that Liberty has what it takes to be a contender for a national championship. For those who watched Liberty University and its football program being built from the ground up more than 40 years ago, the milestones reached in the season hold even more significance. Jerry Falwell, to use athletics as a means to reach young people and bring national exposure to the university and its mission, is being fulfilled.

Since then, he has spearheaded an impressive number of improvements and new construction projects to equip coaches with world-class facilities. These facilities have boosted the programs and helped coaches recruit next-level student-athletes. Over the last seven years, Liberty has constructed new athletics venues for baseball, softball, field hockey, tennis, golf, and lacrosse, plus given state-of-the-art renovations to the playing and practice facilities for basketball, volleyball, soccer, and track and field.

God and Football: Faith and Fanaticism in the SEC | Clinton School of Public Service Speaker Series

He had the right advice for me on how to get us from where we were to the next level. For me, it was about seeing the vision and then knowing that I could also play a small part in helping that come to reality. Barber points to the commitment and support President Falwell has shown the football program that has allowed it to achieve this level of success. President Falwell is percent behind us. One of those pieces was the joint decision to bring Turner Gill on board as head coach in December The former All-America quarterback from Nebraska and former head coach at Kansas and Buffalo brought his winning college football background to the Flames as its eighth head coach.

They have so much heart on the field. They keep coming back.

The Fanatic

I just think that comes from a coach who leads by example. As a Christian, Gibbs knows he cannot serve two masters, but at times his faith is overwhelmed by his fanaticism. He is not alone. Gibbs and his 6 million friends do not live in a spiritually void land where such borderline idol worship would normally be accepted.

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They live in the American South, where according to the American Religious Identification Survey, 84 percent identify themselves as Christians. This apparent contradiction that Gibbs sees in his own life, and in millions of others, has led him to journey to each of the 12 schools to spend time with rabid Christian fans of various ages and denominations. Through his journey, he learns how others are able to balance their passion for their team with their devotion to God. In an interview with www. So obviously my Christian faith is a large part of the book. The book also deals with family, specifically how growing up in the South watching and attending games with our parents, grandparents, siblings and cousins is a common bond we share.

This is the lesson of the book.

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When the book was released back in August, Gibbs wrote this at www. How can you know if what you have written is good? Not at this point. You are too close. This entry was posted on Thursday, December 2nd, at pm and is filed under Books , College football , Writing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.