World Cup 2022: Egyptian Salafi leader's football 'fatwa' stirs controversy

World Cup 2022: Egyptian Salafi leader's football 'fatwa' stirs controversy
Egyptian Salafi leader Younis Makhyoun recently released a fatwa that football is a waste of time and that footballers are no role models.
3 min read
Egypt - Cairo
28 November, 2022
Nour party is known for being loyal to Sisi's regime. [Getty]

A recent 'fatwa' - a religious edict- by an Egyptian Salafi leader regarding football has stirred a heated debate at a time when hundreds of thousands of Egyptians have been vigorously following the World Cup 2022 all over the country.

Head of the ultraconservative Nour party congress and former party president, Younis Makhyoun, criticised in a video posted on his Facebook page football lovers who spend time watching the matches of the World Cup currently held in Qatar.

Makhyoun responded to a question by a viewer who asked whether football was allowed in Islam.

"Watching 22 men running after a…ball is a waste of time. A Muslim should not spend his time over the matters… [that] distract people from worshipping [God]," Makhyoun said.

"People, who spend hours watching football matches, could use this time to do something righteous and beneficial such as reading parts of the holy Quran… Enemies of Islam used this game to distract people from our fellows in Palestine who are being killed every day," he argued.

 "What's the benefit behind watching a match? He rhetorically asked," without ruling out the importance of practising sports, but only "for the sake of physical strength."

Prominent TV hostess Azza Mostafa slammed Makhyoun in her daily TV show Salet El-Tahrir (the newsroom) broadcast on the Sada El-Balad satellite TV channel, interviewing over the phone the secretary general of the Fatwa committee at Dar El-Iftar Dr Khaled Omran.

"Even though Egypt's national team did not qualify to compete in the tournament, the Egyptian people are keen on watching all matches," Mostafa said.

"A child is born and the first things he knows are his mother and the ball," she argued.

Omran said the game is "a favourable activity."

"Football is an accredited sport organised by a union… [Competitions] help us get to know about other cultures," Omran told Mostafa, adding that, religiously, "there is nothing wrong about watching or practising football."

Makhyoun further criticised those considering footballers as "role models" such as Protégées player Cristiano Ronaldo, the Premier League club Manchester United superstar, currently the captain of the Portugal national team at the World Cup.

"This man asked the mother of his children to marry him," Makhyoun repulsively said, referring to Ronaldo's girlfriend as Islam does not allow open relationships.

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However, Omran begged to differ, saying that "characters such as Mohamed Salah (also known as Mo Salah) are successful role models for young people."   

Football is the most popular sport in Egypt liked by both sexes. Egypt is expected to compete in the African Cup later this year, which the team has won seven times from 1957 – 2017 so far.

Nour party has been the dominant Islamist party in Egypt and is known for being loyal to the regime of president Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi. The party is represented in both the parliament and the senate.

Nour party is known for supporting the then-defence minister Sisi when he removed the first-democratically-elected president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.