Egypt’s Salafi cleric says professional football is forbidden in Islam

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A prominent Egyptian cleric issued a clarification on his earlier statement, saying that when he was quoted as saying football is forbidden in Islam he was referring to professional football that has commercial value.

The cleric also denied saying that victims of the football carnage that took place last Wednesday were not martyrs. He said the victims were subjects of unjust killing, but that not everyone who was unjustly killed is a martyr.

Spokesman of the Salafi Preaching Movement (al-Dawaa al-Salafiya) in Egypt, Sheikh Abdul Moneim al-Shahat, who failed to secure a seat in the parliament after the Jan. 25 revolution, said those who died at the Port Said stadium in northern Egypt, mostly members of the Ultras football fan group, did not sacrifice their lives for God.

“They were not in a war fighting for God, they were just having fun. This fun distracts Muslims from worshipping God,” he said in a sermon he gave Monday in a mosque in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.

Shahat added that the “fun” which victims sought when they went to the stadium is forbidden in Islam in the first place.

“Only three sports are allowed in Islam: javelin throw, swimming, and horseback riding. Other sports are forbidden.”

Shahat added that football is a sport imported from the West and criticized football players who join foreign clubs.

“Unfortunately, like in the West, football players play in foreign clubs and get very high salaries while many scholars are struggling to make ends meet.”

Money spent on football, Shahat argued, should go instead to Quran reciting competitions.

Shahat is known for issuing controversial statements especially ones about covering statues, which he considered “idols,” with wax and describing the writings of Egyptian Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz as “prostitution literature.”

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)