Egyptian judoka, Islam El Shahaby, disgraced himself and his country at the Rio games this past Friday. The disgrace was not the result of his failure to medal nor was it the result of his loss to Israeli judoka, Or Sasson. The disgrace was the result of extreme unsportsmanlike conduct exhibited by the Egyptian. Following his loss, El Shahaby walked away without bowing to his opponent – an act unheard of in the sport – and then refused to shake the Israeli’s outstretched hand.
The disgraceful conduct drew jeers from the crowd and the referee ordered El Shahaby to return to the mat area and bow. The Egyptian complied but rather than bowing, gave a pathetic nod with his head prompting additional booing from the audience. Or Sasson brushed off the insult and went on to claim the bronze for his nation.
Sasson said that he expected that the Egyptian would snub him but decided to extend his hand nonetheless to show his opponent “respect.” He added that bowing and showing respect for an opponent is something that he “was educated to do.”
El Shahaby’s ignominious conduct is not an anomaly but rather reflects the norm among athletes from Muslim nations. They routinely engage in conduct that brings disrepute to themselves and the nations they represent.
At the start of the Rio games, the Lebanese delegation refused to allow members of the Israeli team to board the same bus. The Israelis were then forced to find alternate transportation. Following that incident, a Saudi judoka faked an injury in a deliberate effort to avoid a match against her Israeli counterpart. In June 2016, a Syrian boxer forfeited a match against an Israeli during the world boxing championship in Azerbaijan thus forfeiting any chance of qualifying for the Rio games.
In June 2013, in one of the most bizarre incidents of unsportsmanlike conduct, an Egyptian wrestler exhibited traits associated with a rabid dog by biting her Israeli opponent in the back and drawing blood. The Egyptian was suspended while the Israeli, Ilana Kartysh, captured the gold.
The incident involving El Shahaby at Rio was identical to an incident involving another Egyptian judoka during a 2011 tournament. Ramadan Darwish refused to shake hands with Arik Ze’evi, his Israeli opponent, after the Israeli trounced Darwish. Like El Shahaby, he also refused to bow. Darwish’s crass behavior prompted the referee to recall him to the floor and only after repeated requests did Darwish return, only to direct his bow toward the referee and not toward his opponent thus compounding the indignity. The disgraceful spectacle can be viewed in this clip.
In a 2010 weightlifting tournament, the Iranian runner-up refused to shake the hand of the Israeli winner, Sergio Britva. The Iranian was then forced to endure listening to the Israeli national anthem while the Israeli flag was raised but quickly bolted from the podium immediately following the conclusion of the anthem.
As long as the International Olympics Committee (IOC) and other governing sports bodies remain passive in the face of these repeated egregious transgressions and fail to ban the offending nations from all international sporting events, these outrages will continue. Only drastic action in the form of expulsion will serve to modify the offending behavior.
But the phenomena of misbehavior and unsportsmanlike conduct by the athletes of Muslim nations represents a far greater problem that transcends sports. Xenophobia and anti-Semitism have become part and parcel of much of the Muslim world. In that medieval world, hatred of Jews and Israel permeates every field including politics, education, religion, art, culture and sport. Hate is taught to children from birth and passed along from generation to generation. It is amplified by official government institutions through the various education and religious ministries and trickles its way to every facet of Muslim life.
The damage caused by years of relentless brainwashing and institutional racism will take decades, if not generations to reverse and, with few exceptions, it does not look like any Arab or Muslim nation is making any meaningful effort to address this deleterious trend. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Most Egyptians approved of El Shahaby’s disgraceful conduct, and his critics within Egypt limited their criticism to the fact that he didn’t forfeit the game.
Unless the IOC and other governing international sports bodies take decisive action against the offenders, Israeli sports figures will unfortunately have to endure this boorish behavior for the foreseeable future. Israel however, can take solace in the fact that it sent its largest ever Olympic delegation to Rio and its athletes continue to score success on the international stage.