Meanwhile, there are millions upon millions of Muslims in Western countries, with no restrictions whatsoever on the practice of their religion. Yet even most Westerners would never dream of holding Saudi Arabia to the same standard.

“Brazilian Soccer Star Neymar Widely Condemned By Muslim Clerics, Social Media Users For Arriving In Saudi Arabia Wearing Cross Pendant Necklace,” MEMRI, August 24, 2023:

On August 18, 2023, Brazilian soccer star Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior arrived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, following the signing of a lucrative two-year contract with Al-Hilal Saudi Football Club. As he stepped off the plane, Neymar was greeted by club officials amid the presence of a throng of reporters, all capturing the historic moment of this globally renowned player’s arrival. However, the spotlight unexpectedly shifted from his arrival to the Saudi club to the diamond-studded cross pendant necklace he was wearing. This seemingly innocuous accessory stirred a wave of reactions on social media and among Muslim clerics worldwide, who perceived it as a potentially offensive and disrespectful gesture toward the birthplace of Islam. There was also a significant subtext in the criticism, particularly by Islamists, criticizing not just the Brazilian soccer player but his Saudi sponsors.

Indeed, some critics have gone so far as to interpret Neymar’s choice of jewelry as an intentional statement. Conversely, Saudi users, including prominent figures, have chosen to downplay the significance of the soccer star’s necklace. They have accused the critics of attempting to undermine the considerable efforts of the Saudi government in advancing the sports sector in the country and of displaying traits of envy, intolerance, and inconsistency. This report focuses on the criticism that Neymar received on Arabic-language social media for wearing a cross necklace. It also highlights the different opinions from users with contrasting views on the issue.

Condemnations Of Neymar’s Cross Necklace: ‘By Wearing The Cross, This Player Is Provoking All Muslims, And No One Has Done So Before Him’

In his commentary on the incident in an August 21 video, Moroccan Islamist cleric Abdellah Nhari emphasized the sanctity of the “Arabian Peninsula.” He recited a hadith that states “two religions do not coexist in the Arabian Peninsula” and a verse from the Quran 9:28 that says: “Truly the Pagans are unclean; so, let them not, after this year of theirs, approach the Sacred Mosque.” In the video titled “Neymar Provokes Muslim Sentiments and Enters the Holy Land with a Cross Pendant,” Nhari expanded on his point, asserting that Allah has designated the Arabian Peninsula as the land of Islam and monotheism, and “trying to alter the purpose of that land from the worship of God to a land of entertainment… is a dangerous matter.”

Criticizing Neymar for wearing the cross-pendant necklace, he stated: “He could have come like the other players who were presented to the public without bearing, God forbid, the trinity emblem on the land of monotheism. The emblem contradicts the Quran, as Christ was not killed or crucified, but rather God raised him to Himself.”

Algerian cleric Moussa Azzouni has also condemned Neymar for wearing the cross in “the land of the two holy Mosques.” He regarded Neymar’s act as a provocation to Muslims and urged the Algerian people to at least condemn his action in their hearts. In an August 21 video, Azzouni went on to state that Neymar should not be regarded as a role model for Algerian youth, asserting that “the mujahideen and the martyrs are our role models.”

Turkey-based YouTuber Samir Al-Ahmad leveled a similar accusation in an August 19 video in which he said that Neymar’s action amounts to “a provocation to Islam and a provocation to the most sacred place on the face of the earth.” Al-Ahmad remarked, “By wearing the cross, this player is provoking all Muslims, and no one has done so before him, including Cristiano [Ronaldo].”

The London-based writer and translator Muhannad Al-Obaydi argued that Neymar’s act was intentional and accused those who disagree with him of being naive. In an August 20 post on platform X, he wrote: “Neymar’s action sends a message of provocation to the conservative Islamic community. He is essentially saying, ‘My wealth and my ties to power are stronger than your religion, customs, and traditions.’”…

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