Turkish clerics debate Demba Ba’s ‘Islamic’ goal celebration
Turgay Çakmakçı ISTANBUL
Turkish clerics and a televangelist debate on the ‘Islamic’ goal celebration of Beşiktaş striker Demba Ba, who has already found the net 16 times in 20 appearances.The goal celebration of Beşiktaş’s Senegalese national Demba Ba, who kneels down to prostrate before God after goal, has stirred a religious debate in Turkey, with a popular televangelist declaring it a sin to perform the action in a random direction instead of toward the Kaaba.
“Our qibla is the Masjid al-Haram until doomsday,” said Ahmet Mahmut Ünlü, known as “Cüppeli” (Robed) Ahmet Hoca among his followers, in reference to the mosque which also hosts the Kaaba.
Muslims worship turning their faces to qibla wherever they are.
“Such random prostrations wrong. This is something dangerous,” the controversial scholar said in an interview on broadcaster CNNTürk.
“We would appreciate any Islamic signs by artists, sports people or celebrities. This would bring Islam forward. Kids would wonder what this person is doing. But qibla is obligatory in glorifying prostration.”
But random prostration is “unappreciated and sinful,” he said, speaking of the risks of becoming a “heretic.”
Ba has already enraptured Beşiktaş fans with 16 goals in 20 official games, half of which have come in the UEFA Europa League.
Such goal celebration is becoming increasingly popular in Turkey, with Ba’s countryman and close friend, Fenerbahçe striker Moussa Sow, having celebrated piously for three years.
Trabzonspor’s Yatabare also celebrates his goals with prostrations, together with his teammates.
Turkish international and Atletico Madrid ace Arda Turan is also among those who kneel down after scoring.
Every time Ba kneels down behind God, his teammate, goalkeeper Tolga Zengin, imitates him.
Cüppeli Ahmet Hoca is strict on the direction of the move, but other clerics are more appreciative on Ba’s celebrations.
“This is a prostration for glorification,” said Professor Hayri Kırbaşoğlu of Ankara University’s Faculty of Theology. “Sometimes it is not enough to be grateful with words only, and people want to express it with all their organs,” he said, adding that people could do so on a special day, for example when they return to their homeland.
“It is not a sin but permissible to do it wherever you would like to,” he said.
Professor Beyza Bilgin from the same university agreed, saying the action was not linked to the prostration in daily prayer.
“I see nothing wrong in this,” she said. “This is not paganism.”
The faith of Ba has already become a phenomenon among the Turkish fans, with Beşiktaş supporters developing chants for him.
The fans, who used to ask former French player Pascal Nouma to bring them to the disco in their chants, are now asking Ba to take them to a mosque.
Responding to the Hürriyet Daily News on the hot debate, Beşiktaş sources said they were not keen on any debate on Ba’s faith.
The man himself, however, is more frustrated by not being included in Alain Giresse’s 28-man Senegal squad for the Africa Cup of Nations.
“When I see some of the names chosen ahead of me, I do not agree,” Ba was quoted as saying.
“Looking at this list, it seems that we are not dealing with the coach of a national team but rather with a puppet. It is clear that he didn’t take some of the decisions,” he said. “Following our defeat in Tunisia, he was in the changing room, with a dazed look, not knowing how to start his speech. I insist that we are not dealing with a coach but with a puppet.”
Senegal will kick off their tournament against Ghana in Mongomo, Equatorial Guinea, on Jan. 19, 2015.
Ba will be looking to give more pain to Liverpool in the Europa League last 32 match on Feb. 19 at Anfield, only one season after ending the English side’s Premier League hopes while playing for Chelsea.