World Cup 2022: Outcry over German news outlet's 'racist' Morocco coverage
A news segment on German media has been branded as "racist" over its depiction of Moroccan players.
In the news clip, which has been shared widely on social media, three Moroccan players can be seen smiling following their historic victory over Portugal at the World Cup quarterfinals.
'I am fascinated every day by the extent in which German racism presents itself with its coverage of the World Cup'
- Hebh Jamal, journalist
Holding a Moroccan flag between them, the players also raised their index finger, a sign Muslims have used for 1400 years that is a celebratory reminder of the oneness of God and an affirmation of faith.
Welt, one of Germany's most popular TV channels, said the image of the Moroccan players holding their index finger to the air had caused "irritation" because it's the "salute" the so-called Islamic State (IS) used after conquests.
The segment went on to suggest that the Muslim players were unaware of the importance of the upheld index finger.
But a German journalist Tarek Bae accused Welt of "fabricating" the connection with IS, adding that while Moroccan players know the real meaning of their faith, "racists in the world do not," and "this inflammatory reporting around the world causes irritation".
A social media user called the news segment a "mix of open racism + stupidity".
"This German TV channel compares religious people thanking God to ISIS. Apparently, if you thank God for something, you're a terrorist," another social media user added.
Palestine flag unites fans
Welt's segment is not the first time a German media outlet has taken issue with the Qatar World Cup and the widespread support Palestinians have recieved during the tournament.
One of Germany's most important daily newspapers, Die Tageszeitung, also widely known as Taz, recently lamented the use of the Palestinian flag during the World Cup.
A left-leaning, liberal newspaper, Taz called the use of the flag during the games as a form of "orchestrated hostility towards Israel".
Despite Palestine not qualifying for the tournament, which is being held in the Middle East for the first time, its national flag has become a ubiquitous symbol throughout the event.
The Moroccan team, also known as the Atlas Lions, has been widely celebrated after their team made history by becoming the first Arab and African side to make it to the World Cup semi-finals.
After each victory, Moroccan players have also shown solidarity with Palestine by posing for pictures with the flag.
This celebration, according to Taz, is punctured by the "antisemitic tinge" of displaying the Palestinian flag.
Another German journalist, Julian Roepcke of Bild newspaper, sparked a backlash by arguing that "rainbow flags don't work because of culture and respect and FIFA and stuff like that," while the Moroccan faces no problems for holding "a non-existent state that wants to drive seven million Jews into the sea".
Palestine and its symbols were admitted and recognised by FIFA in 1998 and are not considered overtly political.
Welt TV channel said the oft-repeated chant of "Free Palestine" used by football fans throughout the World Cup implies the "destruction of Israel".
Analysts, however, have put the pro-Palestinian sentiment down to a sense of Arab solidarity with Palestinians and the continuing occupation they face.
"By displaying the Palestine flag at the height of celebrating a career highlight with fans, the Moroccan team has centred the Palestine issue in the collective hearts and minds of people around the region," wrote Mostafa Mohamed for Middle East Eye.
Likewise, the Palestine ambassador and permanent observer to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, said in a speech: "The winner of this World Cup is already known: it is Palestine, with its flag carried by people from every corner of the Arab world and around the globe."