Calling it offensive to Islam, some locals urge removal of headbutt statue

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In Qatar and abroad, reaction to the permanent installation of a 5-meter (16-foot) bronze statue depicting two fighting footballers on the Corniche last week has varied wildly, from admiration, respect and amusement to bewilderment, anger and disappointment.

Over the past few days, a new issue with the statue, which depicts French football player Zinedine Zidane head-butting Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup, has been brought up, with some locals saying it offends religious sensibilities.

(“Who is this Zidane to be honored by such a statue?! And what did he do for Qatar?! Should anyone who deserves to be honored receive that honor at the expense of our religion and beliefs?!”)

Depictions of living creatures, such as humans and animals, are discouraged in Islam, over concerns about idolatry and challenges to the monotheistic faith.

However, many Muslim countries honor their leaders by featuring their faces in currency, hanging up portraits of them and erecting statues in their likeness.

Nonetheless, the Twitter hashtag #تمثال_زيدان_بالكورنيش (Zidane’s statue on the Corniche) has been gaining momentum today, with some residents calling for the removal of the statue out of respect for Qatar’s Islamic beliefs.

(“We want a legitimate fatwa from the Ministry of Endowments (Awqaf) on this statue! Because statues in Islam are not acceptable and Zidane’s action was not ethical.”)

Others said they opposed the statue because it represents unsportsmanlike conduct:

The sculpture, “Coup de Tête” (or “Headbutt”) was created by Algerian artist Adel Abdessemed, and purchased by the Qatar Museums Authority as part of its public arts program.

A QMA official last week explained that the statue represents “human defects,” showing people that athletes are not gods, but just human beings.

Some seemed to appreciate that message:

But others maintained that immortalizing Zidane’s actions sends the wrong message, and urged Qatar to tread carefully in its future public art projects.

(“Idols are spreading in Doha by whoever made this decision – we demand the people of Qatar to remove this statue from the Corniche and prevent the installation of the 14 coming statues.”)

Thoughts?

Credit: Translation by Amin Isaac, photo by Gazanfarulla Khan

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