No jobs, no hope — now no soccerHere’s another reason Americans should embrace soccer: Anti-Western and anti-U.S. Islamic radicals are threatening to kill anybody caught watching the World Cup, a special point of pride in Africa because it’s the first time the continent has hosted the games.
By: Dale McFeatters, The Dickinson Press
Here’s another reason Americans should embrace soccer: Anti-Western and anti-U.S. Islamic radicals are threatening to kill anybody caught watching the World Cup, a special point of pride in Africa because it’s the first time the continent has hosted the games.
An organization calling itself al-Shabaab, apparently deciding that the hapless people of the violent and chaotic failed nation of Somalia aren’t miserable enough, has decreed that both playing soccer and watching it on TV are un-Islamic.
Several dozen people have already been jailed for the crime of watching the World Cup in their own homes in areas controlled by al-Shabaab and an allied organization, Hisbul Islam. In 2006, Islamic gunmen killed a man and a teenage girl for refusing to turn off a Germany-Italy Cup match.
In areas of the capital, Mogadishu, controlled by the government, people are free — or as free as anyone gets in Somalia — to watch the World Cup. The soccer-crazy Somalians have been buying up satellite dishes and power boosters and hiring shade-tree electricians to hook them up for the games. One Somali channel broadcasts the matches from the safety of the airport, which is held by African Union peacekeepers. And several Arab channels, taking pity on the soccer-deprived Somalis, are beaming the games into the country.
One cinema in the government-controlled part of the capital carries the World Cup to packed houses along with its Hollywood and Bollywood movies from 10 a.m. to midnight. If al-Shabaab should lay hands on the rest of the capital, the Dhamuke Cinema is probably not long for the world because, in addition to outlawing soccer, the radicals also outlawed movies. It’s a ban they enforced in their own areas by rolling hand grenades into theater audiences. Oh, and the Dhamuke Cinema commits one other unspeakable sin — it allows men and women to sit together.
Al-Shabaab’s leaders say they banned soccer and especially the World Cup because they distracted its young male adherents from the task of jihad. Others say the problem was that rather than going off to the front to fight government forces, the youngsters were sneaking off to watch the games.
But al-Shabaab, with its obsessive interest in other people’s martyrdom, is one of those joyless organizations that ban lots of things — music, dancing, mustaches, school bells (too much like church bells), coeducation, large social gatherings. In the town of Merca, the local al-Shabaab decided that gold and silver dental fillings were un-Islamically decorative and went around yanking out teeth. Al-Shabaab gunmen also go around whipping women they suspect of wearing a bra, bras being un-Islamic because they are “deceptive.”
If there were such a thing as a free and honest vote in Somalia, the unpopular al-Shabaab would be gone tomorrow, but they have what counts — AK-47s. But it’s unsettling and a little sad that the uneducated and unworldly men who run al-Shabaab feel that their religion is threatened by the simple act of running around a field kicking a ball.
— McFeatters writes for Scripps Howard News Service.