The former West Ham, Tottenham and Sevilla striker Fredi Kanouté has criticised those Muslims who feel they have to prove that they are not terrorists.
In an interview with The Guardian, Kanouté said he could never be apologetic about being a Muslim.
“Something I’ve never been is apologetic about being Muslim,” he said. “We often see that before talking some Muslims have to almost feel sorry about being Muslim. They have to prove or justify themselves that they are not terrorists or whatever before being allowed to talk and I don’t like this because you don’t feel associated with the kinds of behaviour that certain Muslims or certain Christians have done.
“I don’t feel associated with the kind of terrible things that people who we sometimes can’t even call Muslims have done. So I don’t feel apologetic about it. But of course it is about creating bridges, not fighting each other. It’s just that people governing us are using this kind of agenda for their personal interests and to get votes but I think that if you go into the street people are way more tolerant. Sometimes it’s true that they get a little bit confused by what is said on TV or by what the politicians are saying. Obviously, this is a period where it is vital for everybody to come close together and not fear the other.
“I think this is going to be the big challenge. But nobody has to feel apologetic or whatever. We all know it’s bad what certain people are doing on both sides but we should just work together with the same purpose against these wrongdoers. That’s the most important thing.”
Born and raised in France to Malian parents, Kanouté converted to Islam when he was 20 years old. In 2007 he won a trio of trophies with Sevilla, including the Uefa Cup, and was subsequently voted African Player of the Year.
Since the Westminster attack last week, a number of British Muslim organisations have condemned the incident in high-profile media appearances. However, the authorities have found no link between the attacker – Khalid Masood – and international terrorism. Neither have they established a motive for his actions.