Monday, June 28, 2010

If You Think Conservatives Hate Soccer--What Do Islamists Think Of The World Cup?

Even assuming that David Zirin is right when he claims that The Far Right Hates Soccer, I think he overlooked an interesting angle when he ignored how radical Muslims feel about the game. After all, it's not as if conservative members of congress ever tried to pass resolutions condemning the game.

But this article from 2006 about Muslim attitudes towards soccer describes some of the fatwas issued against soccer:
On August 25, 2005, anonymous radical Islamist clerics published in the Saudi daily newspaper
al-Watan, an anti-soccer fatwa (ruling). This fatwa, as well as other similar anti-soccer fatwas, caused three Saudi players of al-Ta'if region's well-known al-Rashid soccer team, not only to leave the team but also to believe that soccer was forbidden by religious law. One of those three, Majid al-Sawat, was arrested while planning to carry out a suicide bombing in Iraq. The fatwa declared that soccer is permissible to play only when its rules are different from the accepted international rules. The ruling is based on a hadith (prophetic tradition) which forbids Muslims to imitate Christians and Jews.1

Thus, for example, this fatwa called Muslim players not to "play soccer with four lines
[surrounding the field], since this is the way of the non-believers". It further made use of punishment threats towards the ones who use "the terminology established by the non-believers
and the polytheists, like: 'foul', 'penalty', 'kick', 'corner kick', 'goal' and 'out of bounds'".

Furthermore, one should "not set the number [of players] according to the number of players
used by the non-believers", and thus, only a larger or smaller number than eleven players can
play together. This fatwa included more rules, such as to wear normal clothing while playing,
instead of the colorful pants and numbered jerseys; not to play for 45 minutes in each half; not to play two halves, but rather in one half or three rounds; etc. The most important thing written in this fatwa, however, is that "once you have fulfilled [these] conditions and rules; you must play the entire game with the intention of improving your physical fitness for the purpose of fighting jihad for Allah's sake and preparing for the time when jihad is needed". Moreover, "when you finish playing, be careful not to talk about the game, and not to say 'we play better than the opponent', or 'so-and-so is a good player', etc. Moreover, you should speak about your body, its strength and its muscles, and about the fact that you are playing as [a means of] training to run, attack, and retreat in preparation for [waging] jihad for Allah's sake".2
As it turned out, not only moderate Muslims--but also other radicals--condemned the fatwas themselves. Of course, some of those same radical imams who allowed playing the game, did forbid watching it.
Overall, radical Islamist scholars denounced these games as a corrupt show of Western influence. Even before the World Cup games began, one Islamist warned his fellow Muslims against what he called "this plot aiming to corrupt Muslim youth and distract them from jihad".
Another called it "a cultural invasion worse than military war because it seizes the heart and soul of the Muslim". A Kuwaiti radical Jihadi-Salafi Sheikh, Hamed al-'Ali, one of the leading
younger Jihadi clerics, wrote in the fatwa page of his website that "it is illicit to watch these matches on corrupt television channels while our nation is decimated night and day by foreign armies". This fatwa was circulated later in most of the Jihadi forums on the Internet.7

Some Islamists even called for a boycott of what they called the "Prostitution Cup", following
references that several thousand prostitutes were arriving in Germany for the event. One Islamistwho signed his name as Abu Haytham wrote that "while our brothers in Iraq, Palestine, and Afghanistan are being massacred in cold blood by the Crusaders and the Jews, our young people will have their eyes riveted on depraved television sets which emit the opium of soccer to the extent of overdose". The same author named "12 vices" linked to the world Cup, particularly"idolatry of infidel players" and the "distraction of Muslims from jihad".8

This of course has not prevented radical Muslims from indulging in a least a little jeering of the opposing team:
An Islamist, who signed his name as Abu Hamza, wrote a day after Iran lost to Mexico 1-3, "Praise Allah! Omar, the Sunni, has crushed the rafidha". He was alluding to the fact that two of Mexico's goals were scored by Omar Bravo who, despite his first name, is not of Arab origin.
I suppose one must take one's victories where he can get them.

Needless to say, nothing can stop interested Muslims from watching the game--and apparently Muslim women cannot be prevented from playing the game either. In Zanzibar, there is a team of women players, The Women Fighters, who wear pants and a hijab. Naturally, the team has sparked outrage from Muslim men, though it is not clear if it is because of the way the women dress--or because the womens team has beaten the male team on more than one occasion. Still, the only other female Muslim soccer team is in Sudan.

Radical Muslims may see soccer as a tool in their struggle against Western culture, but it is also a tool for change that is being taken up by those who oppose the extremists.

Something I don't think conservatives need to be afraid of.

Hat tip: My Right Word

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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