Saudi King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud has banned a senior member of the royal family from appearing on public and private television channels after he uttered remarks deemed racist.
Prince Mamdooh Bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud, an honorary member of the Riyadh-based Al Nasr sports club, has also been prevented from making statements to print or audio media and from taking part in all sports activities.
The ban was imposed by King Salman after Prince Mamdooh in a live talk show on Saudi Sports Television questioned the merit of Adnan Jestiyeh, a sports writer, to comment on Saudi sports, referring to him as “Tarsh”.
The term is a pejorative reference to “pilgrim remnants”, usually young children left in the kingdom by their parents as they performed pilgrimage.
The ethnic slur is at times used against them even though they have been living for generations in Saudi Arabia and have been given their rights as full Saudi citizens.
Prince Mamdooh said over the phone that non-Saudis who did not know the history of sports in the kingdom could not comment on games.
“Can we here in Saudi Arabia bring someone from the Tarsh to talk about Saudi sports?” the prince asked.
Shocked by the slur, Adnan told the talk host who was himself baffled by the prince’s derogatory remarks that he would not continue the conversation.
Several sports writers and figures condemned the racist remarks and the Saudi sports media committee issued a statement supporting Adnan and criticizing the derogatory terms used by the former Al Nasr president.
“Such a racist attitude is not compatible with the teachings of Islam and does not reflect the values of the Saudi society,” the committee said. “It also clashes with the moderation message promoted by sports media and it fuels fanaticism.”
Saudi journalists have been calling for action in the sports sector, particularly football, charging it was loaded with fanaticism that threatened its future.
The overheated rivalry between heavyweight clubs and the new possibilities offered by the media to make remarks and statements have fuelled the tension between team officials and fans.
Bloggers heaped praise on King Salman for his prompt and decisive move, stressing it was the best way to ensure people’s rights were protected.
The king, who became ruler in January, had built a reputation since he was governor of Riyadh of a leader who took strong decisions regardless of the names involved.
In March, King Salman insisted that all Saudis were equal.
“There are no differences among Saudi people or areas,” he said in an address to princes, religious scholars, judges, ministers, officials and army staff. “We are determined to address the roots of the divergences and the causes of divisions so that we can eliminate the categorization of the society in a way that harms national unity. All Saudis are equal in rights and duties,” he said.