Vol. 5 Num 710 Sun. May 28, 2006  

'Don't support infidel nations'

A Bangladeshi cleric has called on Muslims not to fly the flags of any 'infidel' nations playing in the World Cup as football fever gripped the sports-mad country.

"Muslims should refrain from flying the flags of infidel countries," Jahanigir Kabir, head cleric of the main mosque in the northern town of Ishwardi, said Saturday.

He made the statement a day after he issued a similar message in a sermon to more than 1,000 devotees at weekly prayers in Ishawardi, around 200 kilometres (125 miles) north of Dhaka.

Kabir's call came as thousands of flags of World Cup football favourites fluttered over Bangladesh's cities and towns with the tournament less than two weeks away.

Most of the flags flying from the rooftops of houses and windows of apartments are of the two World Cup favourites -- Argentina and Brazil -- as most football fans support the team of either one nation or the other.

But some fans were also flying the flags of Germany, France and Italy.

Kabir said a Muslim flying the flag of a non-Muslim country was un-Islamic and represented an "alien culture."

"In the past we have seen young men getting into brawls over their favourite team and they stage victory parades when their favourite teams win. These acts are un-Islamic," Kabir told AFP. He did not elaborate.

The month-long World Cup beginning June 9 is expected to draw record television audiences in the sport-obsessed South Asian nation.

CHOOSE YOUR COLOURS: A street vendor sells flags of different World Cup teams at the city's commercial hub of Gulistan on Saturday. PHOTO: AFP