Thursday, January 05, 2006

Anti-Soccer Fatwas Led Saudi Soccer Players to Join the Jihad in Iraq: Free Muslims Coalition

Very briefly, a fatwa (a religious/legal pronouncement where Islamic jurisprudence is unclear and theoretically has binding force) was issued against soccer. More accurately, it restricted the play of soccer to limited circumstances and only for the purpose of training for jihad. And I'm pretty sure from the tone of the fatwa, this is not the non-violent form of jihad that we're talking about. The result was that 3 professional soccer players quit their teams and one of them became a suicide bomber.

The following is a translation of the substance of the fatwa (footnotes omitted):

Fatwa from 2003: Soccer is Forbidden Except When Played as Training for Jihad

One of the anti-soccer fatwas was published in full in Al-Watan on August 25, 2005. According to other sources it had been issued by Sheikh 'Abdallah Al-Najdi.

The fatwa declared that it is only permissible to play soccer when its rules are different than the accepted international rules. This was based on a hadith [Prophetic tradition] which forbids Muslims to imitate Christians and Jews. [ed: the thing about hadith is that what the Prophet did not forbid is also considered permitted and in all his travels, he came across a lot of customs indeed] The fatwa read:

"1. Don't play soccer with four lines [surrounding the field], since this is the way of the non-believers, and the international soccer rules require drawing [these lines] before playing.

"2. One should not use the terminology established by the non-believers and the polytheists, like: 'foul,' 'penalty kick,' 'corner kick,' 'goal,' and 'out of bounds.' Whoever pronounces these terms should be punished, reprimanded, kicked out of the game, and should even be told in public: 'You have come to resemble the non-believers and the polytheists, and this has been forbidden.'

"3. If one of you falls during the game and breaks his hand or his foot, or if the ball hits his hand, he shall not say 'foul' and shall not stop playing because of his injury. The one who caused his injury shall not receive a yellow or a red card, but rather the case shall be judged according to Muslim law in the case of a broken bone or an injury. The injured player shall exercise his rights according to the shari'a, as [is stated] in the Koran, and you must testify together with him that so-and-so tripped him up intentionally.

"4. Do not set the number [of players] according to the number of players used by the non-believers, the Jews, the Christians, and especially the vile America. In other words, 11 players shall not play together. Make it a larger or a smaller number.

"5. Play in your normal clothing, or in pajamas, or something like that, but not in colorful pants and numbered jerseys. Pants and jerseys are not appropriate clothing for Muslims. They are the clothing of the non-believers and of the West, and therefore you must be careful not to wear them.

"6. 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. One should not waste time in celebrating a false victory.

"7. Do not play for 45 minutes, as is the practice among the Jews, the Christians, and in all of the countries of non-belief and atheism. This is also the length of time that is accepted in the soccer clubs of those who have strayed from the righteous path. You must be different than the non-believers, depart from their path, and not imitate them in anything.

"8. Do not play in two parts [i.e., halves], but rather in one part or in three parts, so as to be different than the sinful and rebellious, the non-believers and the polytheists.

"9. If neither side has defeated the other and neither side has inserted the ball between the posts, do not waste further time [in an extension] or in 'penalty kicks' until someone has won, but rather leave [the field] immediately, since this kind of victory is precisely an imitation of the non-believers and [adoption] of the international soccer rules.

"10. Do not appoint someone who follows the players around and is called 'a referee', since, after canceling the international rules such as 'foul,' 'penalty kick,' 'corner kick' and so on, there is no need for his presence. Moreover, his presence is an imitation of non-believers, Jews and Christians, and constitutes adoption of the international [soccer] rules.

"11. In the course of the game it is forbidden for groups of youth to gather and watch, since if you are gathering for the sake of sports activity and physical fitness, as you claim, why should they be looking at you? You must make them participate [in order to improve] their physical fitness and prepare for jihad; or else say to them, 'Go propagate Islam and seek out moral corruption in the marketplaces and in the press [in order to correct it], and leave us to improve our physical fitness.'

"12. 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.

"13. If one of you inserts the ball between the posts and then starts to run so that his companions will run after him and hug him, like the players in America and France do, you should spit in his face, punish him, and reprimand him, for what do joy, hugging, and kissing have to do with sports?

"14. You must take the three posts or iron rods which you use to construct [the goal], and into which the ball is kicked, and replace them with just two instead of three. In other words, take out the cross-post or rod so that [the goal] will not be similar to what is customary among the non-believers, and in order to violate the despotic international soccer rules.

"15. Do not do what is known as 'substitution', that is, putting in a player in place of a player who has been disqualified, since this the custom of the non-believers in America and elsewhere."

What was heartening was the response from the senior Saudi muftis who rejected the fatwa with some even calling for the prosecution of those who issed such anti-soccer fatwas. Similarly, certain Saudi columnist criticised the fatwa (and their ilk) on the basis that it led youths to extremism.

Now, I'm personally of the opinion that religious text and religion in general lend themselves to interpretations because a literal interpretation would be in contradiction to what we actually know through Science. Not to mention the fact that the premise/assumption of infaliability and inerrancy means that any contradiction is apparent and can be reconciled. The problem with interpretating in this fashion is of course is that when one can 'explain' everything, one explains nothing.

The benefit of this approach is that change can be reconcilled in 'tradition' (like how the Bible was used to overturn previous support for societal practices such as slavery and the role of women). But that is dependent on there being such activists within the ranks. If not, then tradition becomes a byword for oppression and repression and regression.

The voices of moderation, liberalism and progress must be heard to combat the reactionary.




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