At 29 years old, Moeen Ali is by most accounts still in his athletic prime. And just one year removed from being voted one of England’s top five “Cricketers of the Year” for 2015 by Wisden Cricketers’ Almanac, he is by most accounts at the peak of his athletic career.
Which is why Ali, a practicing Muslim of Pakistani descent, made headlines recently when he said in no uncertain terms that he would retire from the sport if he had to choose between it and his religion.
Asked about Islam in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Ali said: “The most important thing of everything, it is something that, I feel like it makes me feel free and the one I wanted to be all my life. As a youngster, I was far from it. When I was about 18-19, I decided that this is the way I want to live my life. It is the only thing that can give me happiness. Cricket is important but nowhere near as important as Islam. If I have to give up cricket tomorrow, it will be easy.”
Like many Muslims — celebrities and non-celebrities alike — who live in Western societies or anywhere else in which Muslims are minorities, Ali also admitted that he feels like he represents Islam publicly. He doesn’t paint it as a negative, however, but as a challenge worth accepting.
“At the back of my mind there is a responsibility that I am representing Islam, Muslims and British Asians,” Ali said. “It is a positive thing. As long as I perform, which is the most the most important thing, and I can behave.”
Ali has played professionally for the Worcestershire County Cricket Club in England since 2007. He also represented England on its national squad at the 2015 Cricket World Cup.