On April 27th 2018, the WWE will hold its Greatest Royal Rumble event in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Pro wrestling fans and online magazines expressed their outrage towards the WWE for removing all matches featuring female wrestlers from the event. The WWE even went as far as removing female ring announcers from the event to avoid offending the Saudi government. Could trying to please this government be a form of support towards Wahhabism?
Wahhabism and Censorship
Wahhabism is a very puritanical form of Sunni Islam that is the guiding ideology of extremist groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS. The Saud family, which rules Saudi Arabia, came into power because of the support of Mohammad Ibn Abdel Wahhab, the founder of Wahhabism. The only reason this ideology exists is to justify theft and banditry. Wahhabis tend to want women to be invisible in the public sphere by means such as having them wear burqas, which cover the face and body. Common vague justifications for this are “it is not decent for a woman to expose herself”, “it is immoral” or to avoid getting men excited.
If this were still the late 1990s or early 21st century, removing matches featuring women in a WWE event
(back then the WWF) would have been understandable. Back then, there were such things as a “bra and panties match”, a match in which sexy women who knew little about wrestling would wrestle in their underwear. Now, the WWE women’s division feature wrestlers who have an Olympic medal in judo (Ronda Rousey), experience in MMA and catch wrestling (Shayna Baszler), and female wrestlers whose technical and acrobatic prowess’s rival those of male wrestlers of any era. Their matches are showcases of their pro-wrestling abilities. Where is the lack of decency and morality in a legitimate sports entertainment event?
Why Would the WWE partner with Saudi Arabia?
Pro wrestling is very popular in the Arabic-speaking world and the WWE knows it. Furthermore, the WWE doesn’t have major competitors in this region. To get wrestlers fans from Arabic-speaking countries can relate to, the WWE has been hiring wrestlers from Jordan and Egypt such as Shadia Bseiso and Mohamed Fahim. The WWE even considered hiring Karam Ibrahim Gaber, an Egyptian Greco-Roman wrestler idolized in his country, if he could win a gold medal at the Olympics. Although other Arabic-speaking countries are less puritanical and more populated (therefore more fans), the WWE favours Saudi Arabia because it is the richest one among these countries. This bias is apparent in Arabic-language broadcasts of WWE events.
How the Greatest Royal Rumble Supports Wahhabism
The WWE signed a 10-year contract with the General Sports Authority, the government body in charge of sports in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government has funded Islamic terrorists such as ISIS and the Taliban. By holding the Greatest Royal Rumble in Saudi Arabia and accommodating its government by removing female staff from the event, the WWE supports Wahhabism morally in both in the Arabic-speaking world and the West. The WWE events broadcasted in Arabic are heavily edited according to Saudi censorship rules. These edited versions for Saudi television are broadcasted across the Arabic-speaking world because the rest of these countries will accept them.
Businesses and ordinary citizens may not be governments but that does not mean there are powerless in the face of ideologies like Wahhabism. Boycotts have worked before. Doing one against sports In Saudi Arabia will hit its government where it hurts: its financial reserves.