Controversial Salafist sheikh Abdel Moneim El-Shahat
denied that the victims of the Port Said tragedy
were martyrs because they died while watching football which he said is forbidden by Islamic Sharia law.
El-Shahat, who is the official spokesperson of the El-Daua El-Salafiya and failed to secure a seat in parliament, said that the 74 football fans who met their death during the violence that ensued following a match between Masry and Ahly died while enjoying an entertainment which is religiously forbidden and so were not martyrs.
Since Thursday of last week, when the tragedy took place, thousands of protesters have been demonstrating in Cairo, and other cities across Egypt over the security forces’ handing of the events in Port Said's football stadium. Security forces are either accused of masterminding the attacks or allowing the attacks to happen.
“Football is forbidden by Sharia,” El-Shahat said, adding, “It is a game that is foreign to Muslims and derived from the West.” El-Shahat was speaking as at a conference in the Fath Mosque in Alexandria on Monday evening. He also stressed that only three sports are approved by Islam: archery, swimming and horse-riding.
“Those who went to the match and died did not go for God but for entertainment,” he declared, before adding that “entertainment is anything that diverts you from worshipping God.”
El-Shahat also demanded that all the money that is spent on football be reserved for Quran memorising competitions instead.
“Unfortunately football has become a professional game just like in the West, to the extent that football players now earn more than scientists,” he said in his comments.
El-Shahat who lost in the run-offs for a parliamentary seat is no stranger to controversial comments. He has previously slammed Egypt’s Nobel Prize winning author Naguib Mahfouz's novels as “inciting promiscuity, prostitution and atheism.” He has also criticised author Alaa El-Aswany and compared the naked images of Pharaohs which are exhibited in Egypt’s multitude of temples as “rotten" and tantamount to heresy.