Long before the first football was kicked at the World Cup earlier this month in Germany, hard-line Islamists were busily denouncing the massive competition as a corrupt show of Western influence.
But as the daily matches have gone on, Islamists using the internet have shown they are not immune to World Cup fever, with some rejoicing in the defeat of Shi’ite majority Iran and others lambasting the Saudi Arabian team for falling out of the finals.
In advance of the tournament of 32 countries, which has now also seen Iran and Tunisia knocked out of the final rounds, one Islamist warned his fellow Muslims against ”this plot aiming to corrupt Muslim youth and distract them from jihad [holy war]”.
Another called it a ”cultural invasion worse than military war because it seizes the heart and soul of the Muslim”.
A Kuwaiti Sheikh named Hamad al-Aali wrote in the ”fatwas” page of his website: ”It is illicit to watch these matches on corrupt television channels while our nation is decimated night and day by foreign armies.”
Armed with such religious edicts, some Islamists called for a boycott of the ”Prostitution Cup”, in reference to reports that several thousand sex workers were arriving in Germany for the event.
”While our brothers in Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan are being massacred in cold blood by the Crusaders and Jews, our young people will have their eyes riveted on depraved television sets which emit the opium of football to the extent of overdose,” wrote one Islamist who signed his name as Abu Haitham.
He named ”12 vices” linked to the World Cup, particularly ”idolatry of infidel players” and the ”distraction of Muslims from jihad”.
Militants close to the al-Qaeda militant network even posted a video of their own ”World Cup” on the internet on Friday.
The presentation showed scenes of the September 11 2001 attacks against the United States as well as footage of killing and torture in the Palestinian territories; the US detention centre at GuantÃƒÂ¡namo Bay in Cuba and the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
”At a time when pro-Zionist Arab media are busy broadcasting the World Cup to divert Muslims away from their religion and from jihad … we offer you the three other cups which those media are trying to hide from our nation,” read an introduction to the footage.
Yet the flood of warnings has failed to sway all eyes from the matches, judging by the high volume of comments posted by Islamists in online World Cup forums.
”I am an extremist, but I find no problem in watching the matches. Your calls to boycott the World Cup are doomed to fail,” wrote one man who signed his name Saad al-Wissi.
Even some who may have initially backed the idea of a boycott have been able to find ways to exult in triumph over the ”crusaders”, ”rafidha” (a pejorative term for Shi’ites) and ”apostates”.
”Praise Allah! Omar, the Sunni, has crushed the radhifa,” wrote an Islamist who signed his name as Abu Hamza, the day after Shi’ite-majority Iran lost to Mexico, 1-3.
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.
And John Pantsil, a Ghanaian defender who plays his club football for Israeli side Hapoel Tel Aviv, was roundly insulted for having waved an Israeli flag as he celebrated his team’s 2-0 win over the Czech Republic.
But it was the Saudi team — the only Arab team besides Tunisia in the World Cup finals — that bore the brunt of the harshest criticism following their 0-4 loss to Ukraine last week.
”Billions of dollars spent on the ‘Green Falcons’ have amounted to nothing. These colossal sums should have been devoted to the many Saudis who slave away day and night for a few riyals in the world’s largest oil-producing country,” wrote Khaled al-Hani.
”Our national team is a public disgrace,” wrote an Islamist named Bassel, proposing that no further mention be made of the team’s avian mascot ”because the falcon is a synonym for pride and joy”.
Saudi Arabia were bumped out of the tournament after Friday’s loss to Spain. — Sapa-AFP