Bad Bad World Cup

Saudi Cleric Decries World Cup Soccer Enthusiasm

Millions of soccer fans around the world are zeroed in on the World Cup tournament, but a Saudi cleric claims that public enthusiasm over sports turns people into fools and encourages nakedness.

"Some of the fans paint their faces with strange colors," Sheik Muhammad Al-Munajid complained in a June 1 interview broadcast by a United Arab Emirates-based television channel, which serves Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries. "Some of them look like demons … The devil has turned these people into fools and made them change the way God created them, with all the things they are doing," Al-Munajid said.

The broadcast of Al-Munajid's interview was intercepted by the Washington, D.C.-based Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) and posted on the group's website. Al-Munajid also said the appearance of many women at the World Cup was inappropriate since they are usually not completely dressed. "The cameras at the soccer fields will zoom in on many things, including women," said Al-Munajid, "who will not be wearing veils, of course and will be half naked in many cases."

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