Kuwaiti grappler refuses to fight Israeli in US competition
A US-based Kuwaiti grappler has whipped up a media storm in his home country after he refused to compete against an Israeli in a tournament to condemn Israel's occupation of Palestine.
Abdullah al-Anjari, 21, announced earlier this week that he was withdrawing from the All Americas Jiu-Jitsu Tournament in the US state of California after he was seeded against an Israeli competitor for his first fight in the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competition.
The heavyweight blue-belt told The New Arab that he made the decision because of "Kuwait's firm position on boycotting Israel and my own principles of not recognising the state of Israel".
"Palestine is more important to me than any international competition," he added.
The move has been widely reported in Kuwait, which has long refused any sort of normalisation of relations with the Israel, including cultural exchange and sports' competitions.
The university student, who has won 30 medals in competition, has been hailed by Kuwaiti lawmakers, journalists and religious figures for his symbolic act of resistance.
"Anjari only wanted to add new moral and national value to the sport of Jiu-Jitsu and build on the brave Kuwaiti and Arab stance against the Zionist entity," a senior Kuwaiti cleric wrote in a local newspaper opinion piece.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement also praised the athlete.
"All hail the Arab, Kuwaiti champion Anjari… who refused to face a competitor representing the Zionist enemy state," the pro-Palestine group said.
Kuwait, a strong supporter of Palestinian rights, is among the majority of Arab countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel.
Earlier this month, the energy-rich Gulf state declined Qatar's offer to co-host the World Cup because of the possibility that the Israeli team could qualify for the tournament.