Malaysia defies games ban over Israeli athletes

Malaysia defies games ban over Israeli athletes
Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman, Malaysia’s youth and sports minister. (Reuters/File)
Updated 28 January 2019

Malaysia defies games ban over Israeli athletes

Malaysia defies games ban over Israeli athletes
  • Malaysia defended its decision to bar Israeli athletes from entering the country
  • Malaysia has had no diplomatic ties with Israel since its establishment in 1948

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is standing firm on its ban on Israeli athletes despite the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) stripping it of the right to host the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships. 
On Sunday, only hours after the IPC decision, Malaysia defended its decision to bar Israeli athletes from entering the country. 
“We will not compromise,” said Syed Saddiq, Malaysia’s youth and sports minister. 
“If hosting an international sporting event is more important than standing up for our Palestinian brothers and sisters who get murdered, maimed and tortured by the Netanyahu regime, that means Malaysia has truly loss its moral compass,” he said.
However, analysts warned that the loss of the titles, due to be held in Kuching, in Borneo, from July 29 to Aug. 4, could have severe political and economic costs following accusations of discrimination by the international community.
Dr. Bridget Welsh, a Malaysia expert at John Cabot University, told Arab News: “The Malaysian government has chosen to ban Paralympic athletes who have trained for years and have nothing to do with government policy to make its own political statement.”
Malaysian businesses and investments could pay a heavy price for the decision, she said.
The IPC decision means 64 countries and almost 1,700 athletes and officials will no longer be heading to Kuching.
Two major local airlines, Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia, are likely to face losses, while hotels and the tourism industry also will be hit.
Muslims make up more than half Malaysia’s 31 million population. Malaysia has had no diplomatic ties with Israel since its establishment in 1948. 
Earlier, IPC President Andrew Parsons said in a statement that athletes should compete in an environment that is “free from discrimination.”
Participation in the world championships is essential since it acts as a qualifier for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. The IPC has “no alternative” and is now “looking for a new host” for the event, Parsons said.
He said the decision by the new political leadership in Malaysia was made for “political reasons.”
“Politics and sport are never a good mix, and we are disappointed that Israeli athletes would not have been allowed to compete in Malaysia,” he said.
The Malaysian Paralympic Council said it stood behind the government’s decision but respected the IPC’s response. 
“The IPC has the right to terminate the organizing agreement,” the council said.