Controversial Salafist sheikh Abdel Moneim El-Shahat has denied media reports that he said that football is a forbidden in Islam and the victims of the Port Said massacre died in sin.
El-Shahat told the Al-Arabiya news channel that the report was fabricated. He claimed that he did not say that football was banned by sharia (Islamic law) as previously reported, but that football is allowed in Islam just like swimming, archery and horse riding.
"But what is forbidden for me is the huge amounts of public money spent on the game, and I asked that this money is spent to develop youth centres," said El-Shahat.
The Salafist sheikh also denied saying that the victims of the Port Said tragedy died in sin.
"What I said exactly was that not everyone who died unjustly is a martyr," explained El-Shahat. "And the people who died in Port Said died unjustly and no more."
"In sharia, a martyr is someone who died in battle or dies a painful death, drowns, or dies under the rubble of a building," explained El-Shahat. "But those who died in Port Said only died unjustly."
It was reported earlier on Tuesday that El-Shahat, while speaking in El-Fath mosque in Alexandria, had insisted that the victims of Port Said were not martyrs. The sheikh was also quoted at length by El-badil daily as saying that victims died while watching an entertainment that is religiously forbidden and complained that the sport is foreign to Muslims and is derived from the West.