What if he kissed the Cross in Saudi Arabia,….?
By Iqbal Tamimi
I was reading the Saudi newspaper ‘Okaz’, when my eyes caught the alarming title ‘The Cross of a Professional Romanian footballer incites trouble in Arabia’s stadiums’.
On the first of August, 2009, the UAE team of al Jazeera signed a contract with the Brazilian striker Ricardo Oliveira. In January 2010 the Saudi team, al-Ahly, signed a contract with the Brazilian player Atlético Baranaess (Marsinho De Silva). And the South Korean player, Kim Nam-il who participated in the World Cup, joined Al Shabab Saudi club team, besides many more brilliant international players.
But when I read the alarming title, I thought, something serious must have happened. I have scanned down the article in a hurry searching for a crime and fishing for the claimed trouble, to find out that the Saudi religious police, known as the ‘Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice’, have warned the Romanian professional footballer, Meril Radoi, who is playing for Alhilal Saudi football team, from kissing the cross during matches, claiming that such act is contradicting Islamic Sharia.
The newspaper “Okaz“ claims that the Saudi religious police, demanded of the General Presidency for Youth Welfare, to warn Radoi of violating what they ‘claimed’ is Islamic principles during the games, by kissing the cross or making ‘other’ practices or ‘gestures’ during the course of the game.
On the other hand, board member and Media Centre Director of Al Hilal team, Abdul Karim Al-Jasser, objected to such instructions and requested of the General Presidency for Youth Welfare, to stop the interference of the religious police in sports matters.
Al-Jasser made his point clear by saying: “the rituals and religious beliefs of foreigners are practiced inside the embassies, homes and public places any way. He wondered why the Romanian player Radoi in particular has been targeted. He warned that “targeting people of other faiths is a dangerous and unacceptable attitude according to Islamic faith, which is considered a faith of tolerance and acceptance of others”.
Such story highlights few interesting points. It has become a trend in the oil rich GCC states to buy everything they do not have, or they do not have enough of, and that seems to include prominent sports professionals. Sometimes, those same states forget that when they lure a professional to join one of their teams, that means they have a working contract or an agreement with them, and that does not mean that the players became their slaves, or that that they have the right to strip them of their personal rights of practicing their religious rituals.
It is a well known fact that some Muslim players kneel in the stadiums after scoring a goal, as a ‘thank you God’ gesture. Other Muslims kiss the black stone in Mecca during the Pilgrimage. The black stone is thought to be one of the original stones that the prophet Ibrahim used in building God’s home, or the Mosque, known as al Kaaba.
The religious police seem to forget that huge numbers of Muslims travel to Europe and USA and they enjoy practicing their prayers and other rituals with total respect, and without encountering any troubles. And should they encounter any acts of disrespect, such acts are usually made by ignorant individuals, not by establishments’ members, authorities’ representatives or institutional groups. On the contrary, if any Muslim became a victim of any abusive behaviour because of his/ her faith in Europe or USA, they have the full right to report such breaches of rights to the authorities, which do not take discrimination against people’s faiths lightly.
I do not see how kissing a cross or a flower for that matter can incite trouble. Sport is supposed to be an ambassador of good well between nations, and when you invite people to your home to teach you something or improve your children’s education; it would be bad taste to request of them to abandon their faiths as long as they are in your home. Such behaviour will eventually deter visitors from accepting your future invitations, leaving you isolated from the international community, where people compete in different sports to bring the best out of individuals and teams.