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Prayer rooms at AFL drawcard for Muslim footy fans

Tim Morgan

Fri May 04 2012


WILL the introduction of multi-faith prayer rooms at all footy venues boost international student attendance? Tim Morgan reports.

The Australian Football League’s decision to introduce multi-faith prayer rooms at all venues has been welcomed by various Muslim groups.

The AFL announced the policy after Richmond footballer and part time multicultural ambassador Bachar Houli requested the room, saying the lack of prayer rooms were preventing Muslims from attending the football.

Women’s support officer for the Islamic Council of Victoria Rana Hussain, agreed with Mr Houli.

Ms Hussain said before the MCG installed its prayer room seven years ago, she had been forced to pray in stairwells and even behind rowdy Bay 13. Once, security even tried to move her on while she was in the middle of a prayer.

She said the AFL had done a great thing by providing a room that was safe, and was sure the media overage the policy has received would result in more people attending the football, including international students.

“For Muslim international students it would be an eye opener to know that the Australian and Victorian community are catering for different people’s needs,” she said.

“A lot of International students are quite keen to experience the quintessential Aussie day out and that’s obviously the football.”

Former Swinburne international student Alif Nadya Inniar Rosa, who was a member of the Young Indonesian Muslim Students Association, said the policy was a really good idea that showed the AFL respected and appreciated Muslims.

But Ms Rosa, who now works as an architect in Australia and is a mad St Kilda fan, was unsure whether the move would have an impact on attendances.

“International students prefer to watch the game they are familiar with such as soccer, basketball or tennis,” she said.

“However some students who are craving new knowledge of Australia would be likely to attend a game.”

Not everyone supported the policy with former Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett labelling it as “political correctness gone mad.”

“I think it’s an overreaction, I think it’s political correctness, I think it’s absolute rubbish. It’s not practical, it’s stupid, it’s political correctness gone mad,” Mr Kennett said.

“To put prayer rooms into sporting venues is not part of the Australian lexicon, it’s not the way in which we’ve behaved.”

Prayer rooms are already installed at the MCG, Etihad stadium and ANZ stadium and will be rolled out at other AFL venues as soon as possible.

Are you more likely to attend AFL games now that they have multi-faith prayer rooms? Have your say below.