The Saudi Committee to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice, aka religious police, has sent a "stern" letter to the General Presidency for the Welfare of Youth (GPWY), the country's sports authority, complaining against Al Hilal club's Romanian player Mirel Radoi kissing a cross "on his arm" while celebrating his team's goals.
I'm assuming the cross is tattooed on his arm. According to news reports, the letter stated, "Media have reported the Romanian player kissing the cross on his arm in front of fans, which is in contravention of [Islamic] Sharia and regulations... These things have a negative effect on the thoughts of youth. Therefore, we urge [the Presidency] to warn non-Muslim players and the technical apparatus [coaches] to follow regulations in the stadiums and not to commit these acts that are in contravention of Sharia, and advise us what you deem fit to stop such actions."
This irked Al Hilal's media spokesman Abdul Karim al-Jasser who demanded that the Saudi GPWY to put an end to such interference in sports and called it a "tough test" for Saudi Arabia's premier sports body. He went on to say that targeting different religions is a serious matter because Islam is a religion of tolerance that recognizes and accepts other religions, and Muslims are permitted to marry Christians, for example.
That's the end of story as carried by the Saudi and Arab press.
Why is it permissible to have live broadcasts of international and European competitions with players crossing themselves all the time, including the sublime Lionel Messi, and deny it to a professional recruited to play football in Saudi Arabia? Does it mean if Argentina or Barcelona are invited to play in Saudi Arabia Messi will be instructed not to cross himself? Incidentally, the Saudi telecommunications giant Mobily is an official partner of Barcelona football club whose crest prominently features a cross. So how does that work? Mobily also happens to be Al Hilal's shirt sponsor.
There is a pervasive influence of hard-line interpretations of Islam in all facets of life in the Arab world. But that is a subject for another post.
In the meantime, I wonder if FIFA care about this or have anything to say about the matter.
A man on a long journey through a perpetual desert.
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