New political imbroglio against the backdrop of sports competition between Israel and a country of Muslim faith. Malaysia on Wednesday announced its refusal to grant visas to Israeli players scheduled to participate in an important squash competition on its territory next month.
The predominantly Muslim Southeast Asian country, which does not maintain diplomatic relations with Israel, has already made several attempts to prevent Israeli athletes from entering its territory. The Palestinian cause is strongly supported in Malaysia, where 60% of the population is Muslim, and Israeli passport holders cannot enter the country.
The World Squash Federation (WSF) said “it has been informed that the Malaysian authorities, so far, have not yet agreed to provide visas to the Israeli squash team.” The men’s team squash world championship is scheduled to be held in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur from December 7 to 12. It was originally scheduled to take place in New Zealand but had to be relocated due to travel restrictions linked to the pandemic.
“It’s a shame that they mix sport and politics”
The federation “is committed to respecting the principle of open and inclusive championships in which all members of nations who want to participate are welcome,” said the sports body in a statement to AFP. The World Squash Federation is in contact with its Malaysian counterpart and hopes “that a fair and practical solution can be found”.
The Israeli squash federation has indicated that it will turn to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland if the world federation does not provide a solution. “It’s a shame that they mix sport and politics,” Aviv Bushinsky, president of the Israeli federation told AFP.
The Malaysian federation declined to comment. In 2019, Malaysia was stripped of its right to host the World Disabled Swimming Championships after threatening to ban Israeli athletes from competing. In 2015, it was Israeli windsurfers who had to withdraw from a competition on Langkawi Island for lack of visas.
During the Tokyo Olympics, an Algerian judoka forfeited to avoid facing an Israeli. He and his trainer were immediately suspended by the international federation for a period of ten years.