French footballer, Nicolas Anelka, reflects on his life 20 years after accepting Islam, and laments over the increasing Islamophobia and discrimination against Muslims in France.
It is exactly 18 years since Anelka started a career which has seen him become one of the most successful footballers of all time.
In an exclusive interview with Al Arabiya, the 36-year-old Anelka has spoken about his new football project in North Africa, and his conversion to Islam.
Anelka’s cumulative transfer fees are more than £112m placing him among the most expensive players in history and he has turned out for the biggest clubs in Europe, including Real Madrid, Juventus, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Liverpool.
“I was sixteen when I converted to Islam,” Anelka said. “Beyond the fraternal aspect, my conversion did not change my life. I was already living by the same principles being righteous, having values. I used to fast during Ramadan because I admired the people fasting around me. What made me convert was that I had that certainty that Islam was for me.
I felt this relationship with God, and that enlightened my life. I had that conviction in my heart that was my religion.”
Anelka added that while French people with North African background attempt to assimilate, the system discriminates heavily.
“French people of North African background try to make things work for them, but French society keeps them in check. There are a lot of obstacles in the way,” he said.
“For example if you send a CV with the “wrong postcode” and a Muslim sounding name then you won’t be considered for a job.
It is only in France that you need to hide your name and picture in the hope of getting work. That level of discrimination is unacceptable.”
The situation for French Muslims has been deteriorating recently, especially after Paris attacks, in which 17 people were killed, OnIslam reported.
Another attack in Copenhagen has added to anti-Muslim attacks, which increased sharply across Europe recently, he added.
According to France’s National Observatory Against Islamophobia, more than 214 separate acts of anti-Muslim behaviour, more than it documented in all of 2014, were recorded in the first month after January attacks.