A 14-year-old chess player from Mauritania withdrew from the Junior World Cup tournament last week in order to avoid competing against an Israeli player, according to Shehab News Agency and other Middle East media reports.
“I decided to retire because I refuse to play with a representative of a fictional country that in reality does not exist,” the player, Abdel Rahim al-Talib Muhammad, explained, according to the Middle East Monitor.
14 year old Muslim chess player refuses to play against an Israeli opponent at the World Chess Champoinships.
Heartbreaking to see hatred taught at such a young age. pic.twitter.com/VlcckeNwgA— StopAntisemitism.org (@StopAntisemites) August 21, 2021
Muhammad, who is ranked 47th out of 215 players, was met with praise by the Mauritanian National League for his decision.
“We salute our dear son Abdel Rahman al-Talib Mohammed, this exceptional genius who honored our country and our people by declaring a boycott of the grim Zionist face,” league president Ghulam al-Hajj said in a statement, according to Iran’s semi-official Press TV.
The move is the latest in a long-standing trend by many nations, particularly those in the Islamic world that refuse to recognize Israel’s existence, to have competitors withdraw from competitions in order to avoid facing Israelis.
One of the latest of these instances was that of Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine, who withdrew from the Olympics in Tokyo in order to avoid facing Israel’s Tohar Butbul.
“We worked a lot to reach the Olympics… but the Palestinian cause is greater than all of this,” Nourine told Algerian television at the time.
The International Judo Federation suspended Nourine and his coach, Amar Benikhlef, who then lost their Algerian Olympic Committee accreditation.
However, he received praise from Palestine Olympic Committee chairman Jibril Rajoub, who urged other Olympic athletes to follow suit.