Last month, a Liverpool fan snapped the above picture at Anfield during the FA Cup clash with Blackburn and tweeted it with the caption, 'Muslims praying at half time at the match yesterday #DISGRACE'.
The tweet was deleted but had already been widely shared to such an extent that Liverpool were forced to address it this week. On Tuesday, the club released a statement saying they were investigating the tweet and would take action when the facts had been fully obtained.
The two men in question, Asif Bodi and Abubakar Bhula, said that because of the 4 p.m. kickoff, the game clashed with their call to prayer and, as such, they chose to pray inside the ground at halftime.
Response to the tweet was widely negative with the majority coming to the defence of Bodi and Bhula but now the indignant photographer has a predictable ally in the form of the Daily Mail.
Richard Littlejohn, a well known columnist, has today come out with a delightful little article which is gaining a lot of attention, the majority of it negative.
Littlejohn, as you may have guessed by now, is not enthused by the sight of the two men praying inside the hallowed halls of Anfield. 'Scousers go to Anfield to worship at the shrine of Shankly, not Allah or the Almighty,' says the Spurs fan.
He then goes on to explain that were he to fall to his knees and start banging his head on the floor at White Hart Lane out of frustration at the football on show, he'd be promptly thrown out of the ground. The gist of the article then asks why is it acceptable for Bodi and Bhula to do something similar?
To outline his argument he first evokes the memories of Heysel and Hillsborough to say that because the men are near a staircase, it is a health and safety matter.
He then goes on to say that the "extraordinary" scene was captured by a man who was then subject to "the usual online lynch-mob were branding him a ‘bigot’ and a ‘disgrace to humanity’". That is a striking use of the term 'lynch-mob'.
A phrase that evokes images of bigots in the American deep south terrorising black communities is instead used to describe people standing up for someone's right to pray.
Littlejohn then stumbles on to the conclusion that football in Britain is acceptably diverse. They were even selling Balti pies at the League Cup final a couple of years previously. He then goes on to say enough is enough, this is the straw that's breaking the camel's back apparently.
OK, so there were only two of them this time. But what if next season there’s a dozen, or two dozen, or 200, all expecting the right to pray where they like?
The article has been divisive to say the least.
Jesus, Littlejohn's gone off the deep end in the Mail there. Not linking to it. Biggest 'I'm not racist but...' I've seen in a while.
— Sam Faulkner (@SamFaulkner87) April 17, 2015
Richard Littlejohn saying selling of Balti pies is evidence of football 'awakening to cultural differences' is pretty f**king spectacular.
— Daniel Storey (@danielstorey85) April 17, 2015
That Richard Littlejohn, is a #Disgrace. Also suggesting Liverpool fans turning up at a mosque and chanting YNWA is the same, is just mental
— Adam (@AdamPembrey) April 17, 2015
Very poor from Richard Littlejohn in the mail today! I'm no leftie but why shouldn't the Anfield Muslims pray at half time. Respect cultures
— Philip Cooper (@PhilipJCooper78) April 17, 2015
How can one newspaper just be full of so much hate? http://t.co/9H7g4924LE
— Liam (@LiamLambrini) April 17, 2015
Don't usually pay him any attention but Littlejohn's latest article in the @MailOnline has to be a joke?
— Alan Hoey (@Alan_Hoey) April 17, 2015