In December, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdelaziz Al Sheikh, the top Sunni cleric in Saudi Arabia has proclaimed that "the game of chess is "forbidden" in Islam because it wastes time and leads to rivalry and enmity among people."
Apparently he didn't want to be one upped by "Shiite Iran's Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani [who] previously declared that chess is religiously prohibited because it could be used for gambling, which is not permissible in Islam."
This would be nutty and absurd material worthy of the Onion, if it weren't for the fact that these are real pronouncements of the most powerful Sunni and Shiite clerics in the world, respectively. It is the sort of thing that makes you seriously question the sanity of adherents of a world religion with a billion followers.
In a global clash of civilizations in the 21st century, can anyone serious expect the adherents of a religion in which the most influential figures in its two largest denominations can't tolerate their followers playing chess prevailing?
It feels like the rot of a once intellectually vibrant culture that is on the verge of imploding.
Nota bene: Arab Muslims are the ones who brought chess to Europe, back in the days when the Islamic empire was tolerant and in part as a product of that tolerance, powerful. Chess has played a storied role in Islamic culture for at least 1400 years.