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by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

Tiger Bachar Houli, a devout Muslim and an AFL multicultural ambassador, brought the need for prayer rooms to the AFL. He believes that a lack of proper prayer areas at AFL grounds was keeping many Muslims, who are obligated to pray five times a day, from attending games. Those who do attend had to carry out these obligations in stairwells, rest rooms and parking lots - any place they could find where they could be relatively alone. The AFL has now introduced prayer rooms at the MCG, Etihad and ANZ Stadium in Sydney. The League is planning on doing the same at all AFL grounds. The rooms will be multi-faith in keeping with the League's cultural diversity policy.

The move was applauded by the Muslim community which comprises 1.7 percent of the population. Ikebal Patel, the president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, praised the AFL for considering all faiths and backgrounds, pointing out people other than Muslims might want to pray. Patel also revealed his AFL loyalty when he commented, “It is engaging with God, and they might even be praying for Hawthorn to win."

GWS also welcomed the decision. A statement from the club acknowledged Sydney's west as culturally diverse. It also acknowledged the Auburn Tigers, a Muslim team which has contributed to the growth of footy in the region. The statement concluded that GWS would support any initiative which would allow game access for everyone.

The idea of prayer rooms at footy grounds has divided fans. The outspoken former Premier and Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett said, among other comments, that it was stupid and "... political correctness gone mad."

Houli was unfazed by the negative attitudes of some sectors, saying "... we've got what we want, and you can't change that ... people want to go and enjoy the footy as well as continue with their beliefs, and if it means they have to pray once a day at the footy, we're not asking for much."


Article last changed on Wednesday, May 09, 2012 - 9:07 PM EDT

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