The Turkish Chess Federation announced on Tuesday that it has initiated legal proceedings against Muslim cleric Ahmet Mahmut Unlu, a televangelist who denounced chess as a supremely sinful activity.
“Playing chess is worse than gambling and eating pork… People who play chess are more prone to lying than others. People who play chess may not say the shahada while they are dying,” Unlu declared, according to Hurriyet Daily News. The shahada is the ritual declaration of Islamic belief: “There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is the messenger of Allah.”
“People who play chess are cursed… You should count your prayer beads instead of playing games like this,” Unlu advised.
This did not sit well with the Turkish Chess Federation, which appears to be suing Unlu for defamation.
“The remarks of the person in question on chess in a video are unacceptable and have drawn a reaction from our community. Legal proceedings have been launched into the baseless comments and evaluations that affect thousands of our players and families, at a time when we most need the unity, peace and the philosophy of chess,” the TSF declared.
“Chess is a sport that has been played by many statesmen and leaders on this soil throughout history. Our precious statesmen have provided the biggest support to make Turkey a chess country, and they continue to contribute to spread this love with their words, the chess sets they deliver, and the events they attend,” the Federation added.
This assertion was backed up by Turkish EU Minister Omer Celik, who pronounced himself an avid player of the game.
“Chess means the joy of wisdom. Chess is the challenge of wisdom. Chess has been attributed value by eastern culture,” Celik said in an interview on Wednesday.