FIFA has been urged to ban Christian players from making the sign of the cross after scoring a goal.
A Muslim cleric from Saudi Arabia, Mohammed Alarefe called on football’s governing body to write it into the game’s laws that players be prohibited from tapping their stomach, chest, left shoulder then right shoulder to make a cross.
Alarefe, who is professor of religion at King Saud University in Riyadh, posted the controversial call on Twitter to his 17.4million followers, but he was quickly flooded with messages disagreeing with him.
A number of people pointed out to the Muslim scholar that a huge amount of players kneel on the ground and kiss the floor in celebration of a goal, mimicking the Islamic prayer.
Alarefe wrote: ‘I’ve seen video clips of athletes, soccer players running, shooting and when they win they make the symbol of the cross on their chests and my question is if FIFA’s rules forbid this.’
While people form all religious backgrounds, including Christianity and Islam responded to his views, many condemned the cleric, saying it incited division.
Sultan Alhusni replied mentioning an Egyptian footballer currently playing for Italian club Roma, and said: ‘I can’t lie. Mohamed Salah and others kneel to pray when they score a goal and no one punishes them. Leave the sport to those who deal with it.’
Another hit out at Alarefe, saying it was the typical views of somebody who was talking about an issue that they knew nothing about.
The issue of religion in football is not a new phenomenon.
Recently, Real Madrid revealed they will not feature the traditional Christian cross on clothing sold in some Middle East countries under a new regional deal.
Marka, a retailing group in the United Arab Emirates, has been granted exclusive rights to ‘manufacture, distribute and sell Real Madrid products’ in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman.
But Marka Vice Chairman Khaled al-Mheiri said Real Madrid has two versions of the crest for the Middle East market and that Marka would use the one without the Christian cross due to cultural sensitivities.
‘We have to be sensitive towards other parts of the Gulf that are quite sensitive to products that hold the cross,’ said al-Mheiri, who owns a Real Madrid cafe in Dubai.
In 2014, Real Madrid removed the Christian cross from its crest when used by its sponsor the National Bank of Abu Dhabi .
Dubai-based airline Emirates is Real Madrid’s main shirt sponsor, whilst the club is also sponsored by Abu Dhabi investment fund IPIC. (Source credit – Mail Online)