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Tuesday, January 29, 2013 

Beitar fans protesting inclusion of Muslim soccer players screwed up argument

There is a legitimate argument to be found in how the owner of Beitar Jerusalem is willing to include soccer players adhering to the Religion of Peace on the team. But both the fans who protested and the people accusing them of "racism" are also off the mark:
Betar Jerusalem owner Arkadi Gaydamak vowed not to yield to the racist minority of his club’s supporters on Sunday as the sports world and senior ministers alike condemned the anti-Muslim bigotry displayed by fans at Teddy Stadium during Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Bnei Yehuda.

The Betar supporters reacted angrily to Gaydamak’s announcement that the club plans to sign Muslims Dzhabrail Kadiyev and Zaur Sadayev from Chechen club Terek Grozny, raising banners reading: “Betar [will be] pure forever” and “70 years of values,” with numerous fans also voicing their opposition to Muslim players joining the club by singing anti-Arab chants.

A Muslim player, Nigerian defender Ibrahim Nadalla, was on the team briefly in 2005 but left after experiencing consistent hostility from its supporters. [...]

Umm al-Fahm of the National League plans to bring 2,500 fans to the potentially volatile showdown at Teddy and coach Samir Issa promised his players would leave the pitch should Betar fans deride Muhammad.

Police at the match on Saturday arrested three supporters on suspicion of incitement, with two of them being banned on Sunday from entering stadiums until the end of the 2013/14 season.

“I was shocked by the racism displayed in the Betar Jerusalem stands yesterday against having Muslim or Arab players on the team,” Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon said on Sunday.
While I won't say that people calling for Beitar to be "pure" are doing the right thing, and if they voiced anti-Arab chants, that was definitely bad, I will say that if Yaalon is going to infer that this was literally "racism" rather than anti-religious sentiment is a very poor way to conduct an argument. I have nothing against adding some Arabic players to the team, but I do have a problem if they're going to adhere to Islam, that's for sure. Of course, these 2 players Gaydamak - who's got a very questionable character - wants to include on the team, are not even Arabic but rather Chechnyan, so I'm not sure how anyone perceived this backlash as "racism" in that framework.

If the fans don't like the choices, they shouldn't even be attending the games or paying their money for them. Why they're not following that simple advice is beyond me.

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