Morocco preacher says women's football team Africa Cup success led to natural disasters
A Moroccan preacher has sparked controversy by linking the success of the women's national football team to natural disasters and other hardships in the country.
The Moroccan women's football team made history by reaching the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations, before losing to South Africa on Saturday. The run has been hailed as a milestone in Arab women's football and coincides with the Women's European Championships.
The remarkable run has been widely celebrated in Morocco.
Before the match, preacher Hamza Elkhaldi said women's football matches were "undoubtedly forbidden", partly because their clothing is 'impermissible' for Muslim women.
He said the watching and broadcasting of women's football matches, as well as Morocco's hosting of arts festivals, invoked the wrath of God.
The preacher pointed to the wildfires that tore through parts of the country and high prices of staple goods as consequences of the women's football success.
He appeared to double down on his comments in a Facebook post, saying "everyone who watches women's matches is without a doubt a sinner".
Though some preachers backed Elkhaldi's comments, others said he was being a killjoy.
"Unless these demeaning perceptions of women are abandoned... we will, unfortunately, hear more of these voices that try to spoil and annoy every joy," The Independent's Arabic-language service reported Rafiki Abu Hafs, a preacher known for making statements in defence of gender equality, as saying.
Women's football continues to gain an increasing platform worldwide, with tournaments like WAFCON and the ongoing Euro 2022 winning bigger viewerships than ever.