When it comes to keeping fun and games from getting completely out of hand, you can’t beat the Salafists of Saudi Arabia. Their keen eye for any activity that might be crosswise with the Qu’ran, keeps the oil-rich nation on the straight and really, really narrow. In the recent past they have condemned the building of snowmen, the game of Pokémon and now chess has come in for its well-deserved fatwa.
Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh has recently pronounced chess as “Immoral under the strictures of the Qu’ran” (or is it Koran? I can’t keep them straight) as chess falls under the sacred text’s prohibition of “intoxicants, gambling, idolatry and divination.”
I’ve long known that chess is the devil’s game, what with all the hoopin’, hollerin’, twerking in the aisle, high fivin’ and mid-air chest bumps that accompany the capture of a crucial piece. And, all of the really good chess players I know are also people who know how to use every feature of their i-Phone, a sure sign of evil and idle time.
In a larger sense, the Saudi objection to chess is centered on the fact that the queen is the most powerful of the game’s pieces; yet, ironically, were the chess queen to appear in real life on the streets of Riyadh, she wouldn’t be able to do squat without a male escort. The chess king, however, is nearly the most emasculated piece, unable to move more than one square at a time and only able to drink, carouse with hookers, gamble and smoke while on vacation in Monte Carlo. So, any game that features a powerful woman really pisses off folks like the Grand Mufti. (I once dated a woman with a grand mufti but that’s a whole other story.)
I have it on good authority that Sheikh Abdulaziz often defends his recent fatwa by referencing the apostolic scene in the 1968 movie The Thomas Crown Affair wherein Faye Dunaway fondles a chess bishop (preternaturally shaped in a suggestive phallic way), distracting Steve McQueen to the point that he can’t concentrate and a gun miraculously shows up in his pocket. Well, something like that. Apparently, the Grand Mufti has watched this scene many, many times just to make sure that he isn’t missing anything subliminal.
The Clown is pretty certain that chess isn’t the last board game to come under religious scrutiny from the keepers of the faith in Saudi Arabia. Monopoly will certainly be in the cross-hairs. First, it’s a game based on “western values”, you know, capitalistic greed, second, it utilizes dice and third, it features a “Get Out of Jail Free” component, something that is completely alien to the Salafist mind.
Trivial Pursuits is likely to get negative attention just because it’s, well, trivial. According to Sheikh Abdulaziz, “Anything that wastes time is time stolen from the study of Muhammad’s teachings”. Talk about wasting time, ask a Trivial Pursuits player, “Who did the Cardinals beat in the World Series in 1982?” It wastes even more time if you ask it of a Saudi. On the other hand, if you ask a Saudi, “In what year did Abu Bakr tell the Shia apostate pretender Ali Talib to pound sand?”, the answer would be immediate because the Salafists waste no time on trivia. Grudges, however, get more attention.
They do have approved board games in Saudi Arabia. “Best of Three” Tic-Tac-Toe is O.K. with the Grand Mufti because it doesn’t require a board and the amount of time wasted is relatively brief. Checkers is suspicious but the game pieces are inoffensive and there is no queen with which to deal. Battleship is allowed as long as the ships are British vs. American and the location is the Strait of Hormuz.
The game of Risk, favored by the ruling Saudi Royal family, is generally accepted by the religious leaders. This is because it allows the country’s leadership to practice ways to corner and then flood the oil market, driving prices down, thus hurting Iran, a favorite Saudi pastime along with bombing the beejesus out of Yemen. Both activities have something to do with grudges.
All-in-all, the clergy in Saudi Arabia would prefer that Saudis play the popular local board game, Crusader Jihad, wherein players compete for the right to join ISIS in Syria or Iraq by demonstrating their abject rejection of any 21st century sensibilities. The competition is fierce and often results in injury, bloodshed and martyrdom, which is highly prized in Islam, kind of like in the NFL here in the good old U.S. of A.
Observoid of the Day: In America, you can be anything that you want to be except for those things for which you are unqualified, ill-educated or unsuited. Otherwise, you can run for President.