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IS Militants Can Play Table Football -- As Long As Figures Are 'Beheaded'

For Islamic State militants, foosball is permitted, provided that it complies with the IS interpretation of Islamic law prohibiting statues and portraits. (file photo)
For Islamic State militants, foosball is permitted, provided that it complies with the IS interpretation of Islamic law prohibiting statues and portraits. (file photo)

What do militants from the Islamic State (IS) group do to relax? An IS fatwa, or religious edict, now permits militants with a few hours to kill to play table football -- but only as long as the game's figures have had their heads cut off.

The recent fatwa was translated into English and shared by British analyst Aymenn J. al-Tamimi on his website. Tamimi has collected and translated a number of IS administrative documents.

The fatwa was issued by the IS group's Al-Buhuth wa al-Eftaa committee, which according to Tamimi is responsible for providing Islamic textual justifications for various decrees.

As far as table football is concerned, the committee decreed that the game was acceptable as long as it complied with the IS group's interpretation of Islamic law prohibiting statues and portraits.

"And that means that the head is cut off from the original part of the game," the fatwa reads, referring to the heads of the figures representing football players in the game.

In table football (often called foosball), there are usually eight rows of plastic, metal, or wooden figures mounted on bars, and controlled by two or four players.

IS militants who wish to play a game or two of table football must also comply with a number of other rules laid down by the Al-Buhuth wa al-Eftaa committee.

Militants are prohibited, for example, from betting on who wins a table football match, and are also not allowed to make the loser pay for hiring the game.

And while table football can be an exciting and dramatic table-top sport, militants indulging in a match or two must refrain from "blasphemy, cursing, scorn, resentment [and] hatred" while playing.

As well as refraining from blaspheming or cursing in the heat of the moment, table football players must take care not to allow the excitement of the game to carry them away so that they forget any "obligatory mention of God's name or any obligatory act of obedience."

For those militants who do not care for table football, the Al-Buhuth wa al-Eftaa committee has also issued a fatwa permitting billiards -- though again, militants who wish to take up a cue and pot some balls must first make sure they observe certain rules.

Just as with table football, militants must not curse or blaspheme; nor must they get so absorbed in the game that they forget to pray.

And while billiards does not involve figures, so there is no need for militants to behead anything before engaging in this recreational activity, the committee points out that the extremists must be aware that it is not proper for them to undertake leisure activities that are a "waste of time."

Though the Islamic State group permits its militants to play billiards and table football, Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra has banned the activity, ordering stores with billiards and foosball facilities in the Aleppo town of Haritan to close, as analyst Tamimi pointed out in a tweet in December.

-- Joanna Paraszczuk

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world.


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