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Emad Barsoum writes: Prayers in Sports Arenas

There was an intention to continue last week’s article about the lost humanity in theocratic states, however, given current global events, some light needs to be shed on its ambiguity and uniqueness, yet still within the same theme of theocratic dominance.

Football, aka soccer, world cup 2022 shined on the world in an unprecedented fashion, religion! It is the first time in the history of sports events and tournaments to witness religious undertones, displayed during the opening ceremony, various events and matches and daily publicity in the host country, Qatar.

Since last week, many social media posts and articles have addressed this new phenomenon and deeply criticized it. Even though the topic became a trend; observers, writers, and critics missed two critical factors:

First, why, in the first place, does an international sports event for the world’s number one sport - expected to be viewed by around Five billion followers -coated with such a uni-religious environment, and

Second, what is going to happen during international sports events in the future, since what starts as a phenomenon later could become de facto. 

There are many reasons behind the inclusion of religion in the world cup: mainly the sense of entitlement of the host country, driven by its wealth, and its wild ambition to be the leader of the Islamic and similarly Arab world, a major player in the middle east, if not the whole world. Forgetting that leadership is not purchased but earned. The ideological insecurity and the false sense of rejection among the modern world, which drove them to build their culture on a religious background, and again neglecting the fact that cultures and civilization are built by Art, Music, Literature, Philosophy, Education, Science, Freedom, Democracy and Humanity. 

The original mistake is considering religion as a nation and not an ideology, believing that religion is the source of identity, and bonding the State or the Princedom, in this case, with the religion.

The greatest fear, if the world prefers silence, is that in the future, we could see this phenomenon happening again in other sports occasions and events, which will gradually creep into other types of international festivals or conferences. 

Suppose this infusion of theological practices is occurring peacefully now in the world cup. In that case, other future contest host countries might try to follow the same path. The modern world would find itself in the middle of doctrine conflicts and in a race to prove which religion or ideology is the dominant one.

It is astonishing, in the twenty-first century, after the great achievements of humanity towards liberty, freedom of speech and expression, and the separation of religion from the state we see the clouds of prayers, hymns, or religious rituals covering the sports arenas.