When Israeli athlete Alexander Shatilov won a gold medal at the Artistic Gymnastics World Cup in Doha, Qatar, in March, the Israeli national anthem was played and the Israeli flag flown.

This sparked outrage in the Arab media and on Arab social networks, including among Qatari media figures, some of them employed by the Qatari state press and the state-owned Al Jazeera channel.

These figures wrote, in articles and especially on Twitter, that any display of normalization with Israel was wrong and a stain on Qatar’s honor.

On March 24, the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) issued a statement which was, unusually, critical of Qatar’s policies. The statement did praise Qatar for supporting the Palestinian cause, but slammed it for allowing displays of normalization with Israel in sports competitions held on its soil, clarifying that such normalization contravened Islamic law.

The IUMS was founded by Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradawi, who also headed it until recently. Al-Qaradawi lives in Qatar and is close to its regime, and the Qatari state supports his IUMS.

A tweet by Al Jazeera commentator Jamal Rayyan where he defended Qatar’s hosting of the Israeli athletes sparked furious responses from Qatari journalists and social-media users. They rejected all normalization and accused Rayyan of hypocrisy because in the past he has spoken against normalization.

Read full report at MEMRI.

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