The Saudi Arabian football (soccer) team has refused to line up and respect a silence held to remember the victims of the London Bridge attack, claiming “it is not in keeping with our culture”.
The team was preparing to play Australia on Thursday morning, and as two Australian women had died in the Islamist attack last weekend, there was a minute’s silence planned in their honour.
As it began, Saudi players stood in their playing position, instead of lining up, and those on the bench remained seated, refusing to stand in respect.
Critics said the move was disrespectful and claimed it showed the Saudis could sympathise with the killers of non-Muslims.
Other, however, said that Muslim respect the dead in their own way – by praying, giving to charity, and speak highly of the person – but rarely by observing a silence.
The World Cup qualifier match ended in a 3-2 victory for Australia.
— Farshid Raminfar (@Farshidraminfar) June 8, 2017
A spokesman for the Football Federation Australia told Daily Mail Australia he was informed before the match that the Saudi team would not take part.
‘The FFA sought agreement from the Asian Football Confederation and the Saudi national team to hold a minute’s silence in memory of those lost in Saturday night’s terror bombings in London and in particular the two Australian women,” the spokesman said.
“Both the AFC and the Saudi team agreed that the minute of silence could be held.
“The FFA was further advised by Saudi team officials that this tradition was not in keeping with Saudi culture and they would move to their side of the field and respect our custom whilst taking their own positions on the field.
“The local broadcaster, FOXSPORTS, was informed of this prior to the minute’s silence taking place.”
Around 85 to 95 per cent of Saudi Arabian citizens are Sunni Muslims, with 10 to 15 per cent practising Shia Islam. Christians are forbidden from worshipping publicly.
Shia imam Sheikh Mohammad Tawhidi told the Mail the Saudi team’s decision not to participate was not about the practice being un-Islamic, but because the dead were non-Muslim.
“[Muslims] regularly mourn over a person if a leader dies or if there is an attack of some kind,” he said.
“They did not stop for a moment of silence because according to Wahhabi Islam – which governs Saudi Arabia – it is not wrong or a sin for a Muslim to kill a non-Muslim. In their eyes, the attackers are martyrs who are going to paradise.
“If they stand for a minute of silence, they are against their Muslim brothers who fought for jihad and fought the ‘infidels’.
“He noted this may not be the personal view of every player within the team, but they would have been ‘ridiculed’ in Saudi Arabia had they commemorated the victims of the London terrorist attack.”