CAIRO: Egyptian footballer and Liverpool striker Mo Salah’s latest cover shoot has caused controversy, with people criticizing him for being embraced by a model and highlighting double standards in society.
Salah can be seen on the cover of GQ Middle East with former Victoria’s Secret Angel, Alessandra Ambrosio.
One version shows them standing back to back while the second, and the cause of the controversy, has Ambrosio embracing him from behind.
There is also a behind the scenes video where the stars can be seen laughing together.
Most comments, especially in Egypt, focused on Salah being embraced by the model despite being a married Muslim man brought up in a conservative society.
“Imagine if a married Muslim woman did this,” one Twitter user commented.
The controversy had people so distracted they didn’t — or wouldn’t — congratulate the Liverpool star on receiving GQ’s Man of the Year award for 2019.
And, after sharing the two covers on his social media accounts, Salah was hit with waves of angry fans shaming him for the pictures and questioning his morality.
“Shame on you as a Muslim,” one Instagram user commented.
Many of the comments were jokes regarding Salah’s marital life ending or being on the rocks. The footballer, who has tens of millions of fans around the world, has yet to address the backlash.
— Mohamed Salah (@MoSalah) October 12, 2019
People were quick to compare Salah’s pictures to those of female Egyptian celebrities who have faced tougher responses to behavior considered immoral. Actress Rania Youssef risked a five-year jail sentence after wearing a dress to a red carpet event that revealed her legs and upper thighs.
Salah, 27, is no stranger to posting pictures of his life and his Instagram account is brimming with candid snaps. But the GQ scandal reveals his difficult balancing act of being Egyptian, Muslim and a global star with a huge following outside the Arab world.
Those defending the forward wondered why he was being criticized, arguing that he was no longer a local Egyptian celebrity but an international A-lister and that his photoshoot with Ambrosio was justified.
It is not the first time the Egyptian star has been caught up in controversy, however.
Last month he clashed with Egypt’s football federation after it was revealed the organization had not voted in FIFA awards in which Salah was a candidate. He also had a row last year with the federation over his image rights.
He made headlines for smiling and posing with Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov as well as drawing fire for defending teammate Amr Warda, who was booted out of Egypt’s Africa Cup of Nations squad for the alleged sexual harassment of several women online.
It was reported that Salah’s intervention helped sway the Eygptian Football Association to reinstate Warda to the squad.