Saudi Arabia Bans chess

Saudi Arabia Bans Chess: Game Is Outlawed Because It ‘Causes Hatred Between People’

A top Muslim cleric in Saudi Arabia has banned the playing of chess, noting that it “causes hatred between people.” The game, according to the cleric, should not be played as it is “a waste of time” and causes “animosity and hatred between people.” He claims that playing chess amounts to gambling and that it should be strictly forbidden in the Muslim country. However, not everyone agrees, as one of the most famous chess players, Nigel Short, says that banning chess in the country would be a “great tragedy” and that he “does not consider chess a threat to society.”

The Middle East Eye reports that a top Muslim cleric has deemed the game of chess a hazard to society and has issued a ban on the game. The grand mufti, the most powerful Sunni figurehead, Abdulaziz Bin Abdullah, says the game must be banned, as it is “haram and a waste of time.” Abdullah notes that chess is comparable to the pre-Islamic Arabian game of maisir. In the game, which was forbidden in the Quran, players shoot arrows with feathers attached to them in a bid to win camel meat. The cleric says that chess is similar to this game, and must be stopped.

It is highly unclear if cleric Abdullah has played chess as there are no arrows, feathers or camel meat involved. Nonetheless, Abdullah maintains that chess is rife with gambling and encourages people to waste money and waste time. Therefore, he sees no reason for chess to be a part of Muslim society and informed his followers that chess is no longer allowed in Saudi Arabia.

The grand mufti is highly respected by the Muslim community and the commands from the Sunni religious figure are taken as law. However, some are questioning the chess ban in Saudi Arabia noting that Abdullah is old, he is in his 80s, and may not realize that betting is not common practice in the game of chess. Musa Bin Thaily, president of the law committee at the Saudi Chess Association, said that “being an old man in his 80s,” he thinks that Abduallah is basing his opinion on something that is not reality and doesn’t understand that betting does not take place in chess. Therefore, he says the Saudi Arabia chess tournaments will continue as planned.

Bin Thaily also took to Twitter to note that though the grand mufti has declared chess illegal in Saudi Arabia, it is not legally binding. The Saudi Arabia chess master says all games will continue, and likens the ban to that of banning musical festivals. Bin Thaily says that though the clerics have banned music festivals, the events continue across the country and no legal actions are taken. Therefore, he says there is no reason to believe that legal actions will be taken against chess players.

Meanwhile, the BBC spoke with Nigel Short, the UK’s most famous chess player, about the ban. Short noted that a ban on chess in Saudi Arabia would be a “great tragedy,” and says he does not view chess as something that is detrimental to society.

“I don’t consider chess to be a threat to society. It’s not something that is so depraved as to corrupt morals.”

What do you think about the Muslim cleric’s attempt to ban chess in Saudi Arabia? Does the cleric’s stance that chess will corrupt society surprise you?

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