Israeli mosque worker fired after taking part in bodybuilding contest

Israeli mosque worker fired after taking part in bodybuilding contest
Ibrahim Masri, the chief muezzin of the El-Jazzar mosque in the Israeli city of Acre, has been relieved of his duties to call Muslims to prayer after it was revealed he had taken part in a bodybuilding event in 2017.

Israel's Interior Ministry, which oversees religious organizations of non-Jewish minorities, including Christian and Muslim communities, ruled to fire the muezzin, stating that his bodybuilding outfit does not correspond with his religious role.

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In 2017, Masri won the Israel bodybuilding championships in his weight category. However, his triumph was short-lived as several months later he was summoned to a committee of religious officials in northern Israel to discuss his “inappropriate” behavior.

After long months of consultation the ministry finally decided to fire the muezzin this week.

Masri himself was astounded by his dismissal saying that Islam doesn’t prohibit people from taking sports.

This is an unjust decision,” Masri said, according to the Times of Israel. “The religion of Islam encourages any individual to practice sport.

“They showed me the pictures of me participating in the competition, and they considered it was not appropriate for a muezzin to practice this sport,” he added.

The 46-year-old lamented the decision, given that ministry officials were reportedly aware of his sports background before hiring him to the mosque.

I told them I would not take part in any more competitions,” Masri said. “They knew I was involved in this sport before I was hired.”

Sheikh Mohammed Kiwan, the mosque’s head imam, agreed that Masri’s revealing bodybuilding outfit didn’t match his role as a religious figure – but regretted he had not been handed a warning instead of dismissal.

It is not permissible for him to expose his modesty in front of men, women and children,” he said. 

Masri, who had been working at the El-Jazzar mosque for nearly 15 years, has filed an appeal to overturn the ministry’s ruling, which will be heard next month. He has also launched a petition backed by local supporters who want the muezzin’s role in the mosque to be restored.