14 April 2016
Waleed Abdullah probably didn’t know what was happening to him when a referee delayed kick-off of a Saudi premier league match to cut the Al Shabab FC goalkeeper’s hair. In a country that demands conformity, Mr. Abdullah’s hair-do, involving shaved parts of his hair in a style popular among youths across the globe, was deemed un-Islamic and by implication subversive – a threat that needed to be dealt with immediately and demonstratively.
The public humiliation of Mr. Abdullah not only evoked the disgracing of players who failed to live up to autocratic expectations in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and Moammar Qaddafi’s Libya but also resembled enforcement of strict dress codes by the Islamic State, the jihadist group from which Saudi Arabia seeks to differentiate itself.
Al Shabab was only allowed to play after fans, players and officials watched the referee use scissors to remove a small mohawk at the front of Mr. Abdullah’s head.
… Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog and a just published book with the same title.
RSIS / Online
Last updated on 15/04/2016