In an open letter to the German Football Association (DFB) dated April 21st, the Hessian parliamentary group of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) criticized the suspensions of play during two matches of the Bundesliga to allow for Ramadan eating and drinking breaks. According to the letter signed by Robert Lambrou, the DFB is deviating from its “previous practice” and undermining the “Ramadan agreement” that has been in effect since 2010. This agreement between the DFB and the Central Council of Muslims (ZMD) had explicitly offered professional Muslim footballers the opportunity to make up for “the fasting days in the match-free period” so that “faith and profession” could be reconciled without conflict.
The interruption of games of the Bundesliga on April 6th and 10th was caused by player requests for Ramadan eating and drinking breaks. This caused the AfD to consider the statutes of the DFB, in which “party-political and religious neutrality” are inscribed, endangered.
In an interview with Junge Freiheit, Lambrou reiterated his position. “There is already the tried and tested regulation for devout Muslims in professional football to postpone fasting to the time period without matches,” Lambrou said. “Those who nevertheless fast during game time and ask for suspensions of play because of it are crossing a line, because that means everyone else has to take into account a religious behavior that shouldn’t play a role in a game of football.”
The referees are caught in the crosshairs by such discretionary decisions by the DFB, for if they deny such requests, they could “face accusations of Islamophobia,” Lambrou said. Without clear directives, the DFB removes itself from responsibility and the entire burden of decision-making, as well as public pressure, comes to rest on the shoulders of the referees.
In addition to citing the existing agreement between the DFB and ZMD, which has not necessitated such stoppages in recent years, Lambrou also proposes the alternative of allowing affected players to “temporarily leave the field of play” so that the flow of the game would not be interrupted.
Already last year, Muslim fast-breaking during matches has started occuring in other European football leagues, such as the English Premier League.
David Boos is an organist, documentary filmmaker, and writer for The European Conservative and other publications.