At first glance, Mo Farah’s Olympic gold medal does not look like much. The 10k is not one of the glamor events of track and field, nothing like the 100 meters, for example. His time of 27 minutes, 30.42 seconds is simply far too long to hold most people’s attention in this day of shorted attention spans.
You got the sense that there was something else, something special going on with this athlete, the way that he fell to his knees, and offered a prayer of gratitude. The way that he brought his hands to his head, in a display of shock over all that has happened to him. The Globe and Mail declared it “the Best Moment of the Games.”
BBC sports announcers, ordinarily subdued and dignified, could not contain their joy.
The Olympic broadcasters mentioned how this was the third gold Olympic medal for Great Britain, and occasionally that Mo Farah had been born in Mogadishu (Somalia) and moved to the UK when he was eight years old. Almost all Somalis are Muslim, whose heritage of Islam goes back to the very origin of Islam. Islam is enshrined in Somali's lega tradition, and many Somalis have a deep connection to Sufism, the mystical tradition of Islam.
The Somalian National Olympic Committee Vice-President sent a message of congratulations to Mo Farah:
“Although he is carrying a separate flag Mo Farah is a Somali and we are all happy with his success.”
The blogs of the Somali community swelled with pride, some also commenting on how lovely it was to see a Muslim man showing such affection to his family in public.
The story of this African born, British citizen runner also exposes many of the tensions in the globalized community of athletes. The Guardian proudly proclaimed: “An African runner has won every Olympic 10,000m since Los Angeles in 1984 – a run now broken by Farah on a magical night for British athletics that just got better and better.” As if by Farah becoming a British citizen, he was no longer African. In the United States millions of Americans self-identify as African-American, but apparently to be African-British is too much to ponder.
Lesser known has been that “Mo” Farah is in fact Mohammad Farah, a proud and active Muslim athlete. He openly talks about his Muslim faith:
I'm a Muslim, so I observe the five pillars of Islam. During Ramadan fasting isn't always the easiest thing for a sportsman. It's quite difficult to fit it in with your training. But that's what you have to do. You learn self-control.
He talks about his Muslim faith and training in this interview.
Mohammad Farah has also been involved in the UK Muslim community, including lending his support to the Muslim Writers Award:
Excelling in every arena is our responsibility. Much the same way as I do my best in sport, it is a delightful honour to be associated with the Muslim Writer’s Awards, a wonderful initiative supported by Muslim Hands which is all about inspiring and encouraging the next generation of Muslim writers.
Congratulations to this African, British, Muslim athlete of the world, who has given us one of the best moments of the Olympics so far.
The images are from the Guardian, and on Somali blogs.