Sport

Boxer Anthony Joshua sparks anger for photo in mosque

IBF heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua criticised on Twitter over picture showing him taking part in Muslim prayers.

Joshua appeared in a photo performing prayers at a mosque in the UAE [Matt Dunham/AP]

A British boxing star stirred anger from the far-right after posting a picture of himself taking part in Muslim prayers at a mosque in the UAE.

Anthony Joshua, an International Boxing Federation (IBF) heavyweight champion, tweeted on Tuesday the photo of himself and his friends praying. It has since been retweeted more than 18,000 times.

Joshua, who won gold at the London 2012 Olympics, wrote "prayer was a solid foundation" alongside hard work, luck, and talent, in the tweet accompanying the picture.

Joshua was raised a Christian but follows no particular religion, according to an interview he did with the British news agency, the Press Association, last year.

Nevertheless, many on Twitter vented anger at him for associating himself with Islam.

"He is a great fighter but I am shocked and disappointed by his support for such a vile religion," wrote one person with the username 'RightWingRoy'.

Another user, Sam Halpin, wrote "You have lost my support and i hope klitscho (sic) irons you out", referring to Joshua's upcoming bout with Ukrainian boxer Vitali Klitschko.

The negative response, however, soon gave way to messages of support for Joshua and others mocking the significance of Twitter users withdrawing their support for a famous sportsman.

"People abusing Anthony Joshua for visiting a Mosque probably paid tribute to Muhammad Ali when he died last year," said ring announcer Ricky Wright.

"Question the society we live in when people are moaning over #AnthonyJoshua in a mosque. Get a grip of yourselves seriously!" said another user named Aubrey.

The Twitter storm comes amid rising far-right and populist sentiment across the Western world, with a lot of angry rhetoric aimed at Islam and Muslims.

In the US, President-elect Donald Trump has promised to ban Muslims from entering the country, while in France, the leader of the far-right Front National, Marine Le Pen, has emerged as a front-runner in this year's presidential election.

Media coverage of Islam is seen as one of the root causes of anti-Muslim sentiment.

Source: Al Jazeera