World squash event in Malaysia axed after Israelis barred

Major events planned for Malaysia have previously been cancelled over the country’s refusal to grant visas to Israeli competitors.

Malaysia's Ng Eain Yow reacts after winning the men's Team Squash Final at the Asian Games in 2018 [File: Raminder Pal Singh/EPA]

A major squash tournament in Malaysia has been cancelled, the sport’s governing body has said after the Southeast Asian country refused to grant visas to an Israeli team.

It is the latest instance of Muslim-majority Malaysia, which has no diplomatic relations with Israel, barring the country’s athletes.

The World Team Championship for men had been due to take place in Kuala Lumpur from December 7, with 26 squads taking part.

But the World Squash Federation (WSF) and Malaysia’s squash body said that the tournament had been axed because of the “possibility that some nations would be unable to compete due to the lack of confirmation over the issuing of visas”.

WSF president Zena Wooldridge said sport officials had sought to “influence the highest authorities of Malaysia to ensure the ability of all participating teams, including Israel, to enter Malaysia and compete.

“It is important to WSF that no nation who wishes to compete misses out on the event.”

Israel’s squash association previously said that countries that participated in a tournament from which Israel was barred would be closing their eyes to “racism and discrimination”.

The decision came after the ISA took its case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.

The WSF said the decision to cancel the event was also influenced by the new Omicron coronavirus variant, which it fears could affect travel to Malaysia.

The tournament was moved to Malaysia from New Zealand earlier this year because of coronavirus-related travel restrictions, although Malaysia has still not opened its borders to foreign visitors. Egypt won the last tournament, which was held in Washington DC in 2019.

Malaysia, where about 60 percent of the population are ethnic Malay Muslims, does not allow its citizens to travel to Israel or allow Israelis to travel to Malaysia.

In a statement to mark the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah reiterated the country’s “unwavering support and profound solidarity” with the Palestinian people and urged an end to the “repeated violence and aggression perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians” and the “systematic oppression and crimes of apartheid”.

In 2019, Malaysia threatened to refuse visas for Israeli athletes for the World Para Swimming Championships and was stripped of its right to host the event.

And in 2015, Israeli windsurfers pulled out of a competition on the island of Langkawi after being refused visas.

Source: AFP, Al Jazeera