The World Cup is latently reactionary, as is any international sporting event in which national teams face off against one another.
It presents us with a spectacle of difference. Not the difference of individual autonomy—self-determining into oblivion through a myriad of consumer choices, even unto the invention of new ‘genders’—but rather of national difference.
Of course, spectator sport can function as an opiate, sublimating and siphoning off certain energies. Perhaps the patriotic verve it mobilizes would otherwise manifest politically as a reaction against globalist monoculture.
But escape valves are dangerous; they can act as galvanizing agents. Sometimes spectacle serves as catharsis and anesthetic, other times, it does the opposite. It can serve to identify the level of hostility pulsing in a community. We should not be surprised, then, if some fans transition from bread and circus to violence.
In this context, it is difficult to ignore the behavior of elements in Moroccan communities in numerous European cities.
Morocco is a country on the march. The Arab-Amazigh kingdom has secured U.S. and Israeli support for its annexation of Western Sahara, and it is unrelenting in antagonizing Spanish and Algerian interests in the region. We might speculate, then, that part of the behavior of its diaspora is motivated by the political climate back home, the “patriotic moment” their national consciousness is experiencing.
Another, probably greater part of the equation, has to do with viewing European countries as an enemy.
In these terms, the World Cup has, at times, taken on the appearance of something like a proxy civilizational conflict, with Moroccan players describing their victories (specifically over Spain and Portugal) as belonging to the whole Muslim world (per a tweet by a former Real Madrid and Arsenal player).
This occurs in the wider context of that clash of values evidenced by the ban on LGBT paraphernalia in Qatar, the tournament’s host, and the attempt by some teams and fans to circumvent it.
Interestingly, there was a bit of a trend of socially liberal posters on social media advocating for the superiority of the West over the Islamic world as a consequence of Qatar’s ban. Conservatives might find themselves refreshed by these sudden expressions of appreciation for the West, but in this case, they will succeed only in acting as peons for their woke opponents.
Of course, if ‘the West’ against which Morocco is playing is defined not by its tradition, but by the push to spread (post-)modern sexual identities and the like, Moroccan rioters are engaging in a kind of equal but opposite display. Amidst talk of a victory for Muslims in general, however, vulgar ethnic resentment against Europeans can pretend to stem from a principled opposition to secular, liberal postmodernity.
It is dangerous to confuse a defense of traditional morality with a particular national identity. The Gospel dispels this error when it replaces the dispensation to national Israel with the Great Commission, and Islam contains warnings against Arab chauvinism.
Growing up, I often heard a tension in how Muslims proselytized. Sometimes they performed proselytism (dawa) on behalf of the religion (the deen), but others, they did so on behalf of worldly things (the dunya). Preaching about Islam proper could easily veer into a defense of this or that past empire, spangled with biased and exaggerated claims about the achievements of Islamic polities.
The extreme of this tendency occurs when Islam is used to structure a caste system and justify the enrichment of some over others. Historically, we know of Muslim rulers who made it difficult for Christians to convert in order to continue extracting the jizya tax from them (a tax on Christians and Jews). Slave raids and castration can likewise be forbidden by Islamic scholars despite having been practiced by Muslim authorities from the Umayyads to the Ottomans.
Today, Islam in the post-Christian West is, with some frequency, used as an excuse for wrapping run-of-the-mill ethnic and nationalist resentment or, in certain cases, outright criminality, in a religious guise.
Both European conservatives, unwilling to accept the negative consequences of mass migration, and Muslims living in Qatar and beyond, unwilling to accept western postmodern insanity, can find in the World Cup a chance to reflect on the need to walk a middle path, rejecting criminality under the guise of reactionary moralism together with the urging of a new, counterfeit morality on traditional societies. We may also wonder at how the dynamics of modern globalism leads to both.