With prayer breaks, halal food and no alcohol or gambling, MGA golf days allow UK Muslims to play in line with their principles
When Amir Malik fell in love with golf a few years ago, he soon realised that as a practising Muslim he didn’t quite fit in with the memberships of most clubs.
“With a game taking three to four hours, there’d be times when I needed to pray. And when we finished, the players would go back to the clubhouse for a drink, and for someone who doesn’t drink alcohol that could be quite uncomfortable. As much as you might be part of a club, you feel like you’re on the periphery,” he said.
Malik’s response was to set up the Muslim Golf Association (MGA) to host competitions and golf days across Britain at which Muslims can feel welcome and comfortable. A tri-series tournament has already begun with a sellout event at Worsley Park in Manchester in May, with the next leg at The Shire near London this month and the final one at the Forest of Arden near Birmingham in August.
Malik, a 37-year-old IT recruiter, founded the MGA after organising a charity fundraiser two years ago at The Grove, one of the UK’s most prestigious courses. All 72 tickets sold out within 24 hours, and within a week there was a waiting list of 90 people. “I realised there was an appetite out there,” he said. The event raised £18,000.
“Since I set up the MGA I’ve met hundreds of Muslim golfers. Some of them now in their 60s and 70s faced a lot of discrimination. One guy said no one would play with him. Things have got better, but there’s still a long way to go.”
The key principles of MGA golf days and competitions – which are open to non-Muslims – are no alcohol, no gambling, prayer breaks and halal food. “For me, the dream is to create a platform where Muslims can play this beautiful game without compromising our principles,” Malik said.
The association hires clubs and courses for its events. “We quickly get an idea of whether the club is welcoming. It’s clear that some just don’t want us there,” Malik said.
He is keen to include Muslim women at events. “White women often feel marginalised and excluded at golf clubs. Imagine what it’s like for women of colour, and then on top of that wearing a hijab or niqab?
“Golf is one of the few sports that conservative Muslim women could feel comfortable – there is no contact, no running, you can wear what you want. Why is the door not open?”
In conjunction with love.golf, the MGA ran a taster session for women in Birmingham a few weeks ago. It sold out in hours, with dozens more women adding their names to a waiting list. Malik has since been contacted by about 125 women from all over the country asking for similar events in their areas.
Malik’s ambitions for Muslim golf go even further. “I want to take this global, to Muslim countries like Pakistan, Turkey and Malaysia. There are billions of Muslims in the world, and I want to get more of them playing golf.”