Journey to Mecca…but sporting obsession goes on

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Retired NRL champion Hazem El Masri (left) at a film premiere in Sydney in 2012. Photo: Nasya Bahfen

They say sport is a religion, especially in Australia. Dr Nasya Bahfen from Monash University’s School of Media, Film and Journalism is one of many who exemplify where the two mix. She recently returned from Hajj – the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca – where ahead of the NRL grand final she found time to speak to the Australian about the role played by rugby league in the lives of Sydney-based Muslims – a topic she had previously researched and reported on, including interviewing retired champion Hazem El Masri.

Prior to leaving for Mecca she also discussed with the newspaper Australian Muslims’ heightened sense of alert following terror raids in Sydney – a theme she returned to, in an interview with SBS Radio’s Indonesian program (in Bahasa Indonesia) on radicalisation of Muslim youth.

During the pilgrimage, in a phone interview with the ABC while standing on the desert plains of Arafat in Saudi Arabia, she explored issues of technology-infused worship (or the problem with ‘Hajj selfies’) as well as her dismay at not having any fellow Australian pilgrims around with whom she could discuss James Hird and the Essendon Football Club.