Saudi Arabia's top Muslim cleric has issued a fatwa against chess, saying it is like gambling and is forbidden by God. The mufti said the game was a waste of time and stirred enmity among people.
"Chess is like alcohol and gambling that God has forbidden," Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel-Aziz al-Sheikh announced in one of his broadcasts that has appeared frequently in the last months.
The cleric expressed his views in a Saudi religious television channel called Almajd.
Chess buffs in the country said they were upset by the mufti's statement. "The mufti has no background about chess and its modern systems," Moussa Bandr, an official of the Saudi Chess Association, told journalists of the dpa news agency.
"This fatwa could open the door for the religious police in the kingdom to have a legal reason for stopping us from organizing chess tournaments," Bandr said, adding that a chess event had begun on Friday in Mecca without any problems.
Meanwhile, chess mogul Garry Kasparov came to the rescue, condemning the fatwa and demanding that Riyadh concentrate more on human rights and democracy.
Chess is popular in Saudi Arabia, where men play the game at home or in coffee houses. Riyadh follows a very strict interpretation of Islam called Wahhabism which imposes strict restrictions, including the segregation of men and women in public and a ban on women's driving.
mg/bw (dpa, AFP)