Islam vs. Soccer

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Islam vs. Soccer

JAMES M. DORSEY

According to Mr. Ahmad, Western fans all bought bidets in Qatari markets to take home with them. “They were amazed. At first, they didn’t know how to use the bidet, but when it was explained to them, they were awestruck. They felt clean for the first time. Throughout their lives, they were filthy,” Mr. Ahmad said.

Leaving aside the fact that bidets were first developed in 17th century France, Mr. Ahmad’s comment is relevant not for its misreading of history and reality but for its reflection of convoluted and contradictory attitudes toward soccer among ultra-conservative Muslim scholars and militants.

For much of the last decade, discussion of soccer among ultra-conservative Muslims faded into the background while Islamic militants appeared to set their sights elsewhere. That could change with the current European football championship and next month’s Paris Olympics. For now, the Gaza war’s mobilizing effect will likely primarily manifest itself in pro-Palestinian protests rather than violent attacks.

Even so, authorities fear that in the long-term Gaza, fuelled by perceptions of Western double standards and the images of human and physical carnage, could have a mobilising and radicalising effect like that of the Syria war.

Whether that fear is exaggerated, or the result of security officials’ prejudice remains to be seen…