By James M. Dorsey, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer, June 22
It’s not just soccer fans whose football fever soars during a World Cup. So does that of militant Islamists and jihadists with deadly consequences. Scores of fans have been killed since this month’s kick-off of the Cup in attacks in Iraq, Kenya and Nigeria.
The attacks by the likes of the Islamic state in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Al Shabab in Somalia and Boko Haram appear to have become a World Cup fixture with similar random slaughter having occurred during the 2010 tournament in South Africa.
They reflect the diversity of opinion among jihadists on the merits of soccer as well as a degree of opportunism among all jihadists, irrespective of their attitude towards the beautiful game, in exploiting its popularity whether by seeking to maximise publicity by targeting fans during the tournament or using it as a recruitment tool.
The attacks occurred against the backdrop of a series of statements and fatwas, religious opinions, by militant clerics, often Salafis who seek to emulate to the degree possible 7th century life at the time of the Prophet Mohammed and his immediate successors who are not jihadists, condemning soccer as an infidel game that is intended to divert the faithful from their religious obligations or create divisiveness.