Malaysia has decided it would rather not host the 67th FIFA Congress next year, as it means hosting an Israeli delegation as part of it.
Malaysia was scheduled to host the Congress in its capital city of Kuala Lumpur on May 11-12, 2017. It refused to issue visas to Israeli delegates, and therefore had to relinquish the hosting rights.
Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Zahid Hamidi said his country could not provide visas to Israeli officials because of the lack of diplomatic ties with Israel and because "local sensitivities" might be riled up.
"Some of the conditions of hosting the event include placing [Israel's] flag on the table during the congress," he was quoted as saying. "After comparing the benefits and the risks, it is better for Malaysia to avoid playing host."
The official religion of Malaysia, located in southeastern Asia, is Sunni Islam, and some 62% of the population of 31 million are Muslims.
The Gaza-based Hamas terrorist organization hailed the Malaysian decision. “This decision reflects Malaysia’s firm position [against] normalization with the occupation, and illustrates the country’s principled support for Palestine,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a press release on Thursday.
“Hamas and Palestinians cherish the Malaysian decision and wish Malaysia prosperity and progress,” Abu Zuhri said.