Amir Malik on marketing campaign to make golf extra inclusive for Muslims



Aamir Malik is loopy about golf. But golf did not all the time love him again.

A faithful sports activities fan since his childhood in Kingston upon Thames, London, he was fascinated with golf lengthy earlier than he took his first swing. However not understanding anybody else to play, Malik settled for a facet view.

That every one modified in 2012, when his former boss invited him to strive his hand on the driving vary.

“From the primary ball I assumed, ‘That is it. This sport is unbelievable,'” Malik, now 38, advised CNN.

“I’ve performed quite a lot of video games, however there aren’t quite a lot of video games whenever you go to mattress and you’ll’t wait to get again up and play once more.”

Ultimately, Malik was able to take his sport to the subsequent degree. Becoming a member of a municipal membership in 2017, he began taking part in Sunday morning tournaments.

It was at these occasions that the “uglier facet” of the sport was more and more revealed to Malik, who felt alienated by membership tradition and the jarring battle of his Muslim religion.

The discomfort would start earlier than a ball was even hit, as Malik says as he questioned his refusal to position bets on house competitions, as playing is forbidden in Islam. Exterior of the curriculum, stepping apart to look at salat – the ritual Islamic prayer carried out 5 occasions a day – added to his considerations.

“You’d really feel scared, shocked. How are individuals going to react?” she remembered.

“We all the time made certain we received out of the way in which, however you have been made to really feel very, very uncomfortable.”

His discomfort was compounded by the standard custom of clubhouse ingesting after competitions. As Malik doesn’t drink alcohol, he was left at hand in his scorecard and make an early exit.

As he improved and performed extra prestigious programs, the discomfort typically turned to outright hostility. Malik, who’s of Pakistani descent, mentioned he has skilled racism on the golf course.

“You flip up and instantly you possibly can really feel the vibe and the ambiance, the way in which you are talked to, the way in which you are handled,” he mentioned.

“And also you’re similar to ‘Wow,’ simply because I’ve a beard, I am brown, and I do not appear like you, you in all probability suppose I can not play or you do not suppose I do know manners.

“It actually pissed off me since you really feel it, you’re feeling it, you develop up in it, you know the way it feels. And it isn’t till you are in the course of a straight honest I do not hit – whenever you smoke a drive – then individuals suppose, ‘Oh, he can play,’ and by then it is too late.

Malik’s ardour for golf was not dampened by his experiences. Quite the opposite, they inspired him to hunt out different British Muslims who shared his love of the sport.

In December 2019 Malik, inspired by the “pockets” of curiosity he had seen on his travels, got here up with a reputation for his new enterprise – the Muslim Golf Affiliation (MGA) – and despatched out invites to a charity golf day at The Grove, an iconic venue . simply exterior london.

The primary version of the MGA can be open to all religions; Prayer services can be offered and there can be no liquor or playing. Malik was greatly surprised by the response. Inside 24 hours, all 72 locations have been booked, with over 100 individuals on the ready listing by the tip of the week.

The occasion, held in August 2020, raised £18,000 for the charity, and the sight of over 60 gamers praying collectively within the forecourt of The Grove marked a watershed second for Malik.

“It was simply superb to me,” he mentioned. “We will carry individuals collectively, really feel secure and cozy and simply be on our platform.”

Play has been halted to allow golfers to pray during an MGA event at Carden Park, Cheshire in May.

Since then, the MGA has partnered with the Marriott resort chain to stage the Tri-Collection match beginning in 2021, with winners of this 12 months’s version securing an all-expenses-paid journey to the Turkish {golfing} paradise of Belek .

Malik mentioned, “I checked out golf and thought, It is a sport performed by white, outdated, wealthy males, interval.” “Now we’ve got a possibility to actually present the world that non-whites can play this sport and we’re superb at it.”

For Malik, the overwhelming response to MGA occasions amongst Muslim ladies has been equally thrilling. After launching a trio of pilot classes in Birmingham final 12 months, 1,000 gamers have already signed up for girls’s tester occasions scheduled throughout the nation over the subsequent two months.

Malik believes Muslim ladies within the UK are being prevented from taking part in additional sports activities by the dearth of all-female services and classes.

The MGA has no costume code, which means that ladies can play in niqab (face veil) and abaya (lengthy gown) if they want, and it particularly designates sections of the programs for his or her unique use for tasteful occasions. rents lodges, to make sure a snug expertise for the children. new participant.

“The response has been completely unbelievable, mindblowing,” Malik mentioned. “I inform ladies, ‘I do not care what you put on, the way you look, simply are available with a smile and a pair of trainers and we’ll care for the remainder.’ We have not finished something revolutionary, we have simply made it accessible, and the demand is unbelievable.”

The MGA plans to host women's golf tester sessions across the country through 2022.

Up to now, MGA occasions have attracted over 1,300 members. Wanting forward, the group goals to take its efforts to a world scale to achieve as many new gamers as doable.

Rising up, Malik needed to look to different sports activities for Muslim function fashions akin to England cricketer Moeen Ali. Numerous Muslim athletes, from Muhammad Ali to Kareem Abdul-Jabar to Mohamed Salah, have solid illustrious careers in a variety of sports activities, but skilled golf presents a comparative paucity of examples.

Malik's sporting hero, Moeen Ali, in action against Pakistan in September.

In keeping with a survey cited by England Golf, the nation’s governing physique for beginner golf, simply 5% of golfers in England are from ethnically various teams.

By forging hyperlinks with teams such because the MGA, Richard Flint, England Golf’s chief working officer, believes boundaries contributing to the dearth of range within the sport could be understood and damaged down.

“Nobody ought to really feel uncomfortable strolling via the doorways of a golf membership or facility due to their age, race, ethnicity or gender,” Flint advised CNN.

“As a contemporary, forward-thinking group, we would like golf to be open to everybody and alter the unfavorable notion of a sport that belongs to the previous.”

In 2021, the MGA hosted The Race to Arden, with the final event taking place in the Forest of Arden in Warwickshire.

Whereas Malik hopes to see Muslim gamers competing on the skilled tour quickly, he says he didn’t kind the MGA to provide the Muslim Tiger Woods.

“If it occurs as a byproduct, nice,” he mentioned. “But when we will get the golf business to take an extended, laborious have a look at itself and make itself accessible, open and various, that is a terrific achievement.

“The golf course would not discriminate. The ball would not ask what color, race or gender you might be…but it’s a very closed membership open to only a few.

Malik believes it’s time for change. “Golf has quite a lot of extraordinary values ​​and traditions that I nonetheless suppose it must perpetuate, but it surely has to develop … whether it is to open itself up and permit different cultures and traditions to be a part of all the nice issues on this sport.” Letting issues carry, could be completely fantastic.”

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