Indian female tennis player Sania Mirza, 19, who is ranked 39th in the world, announced that she would not play with Israeli up and coming tennis star Shahar Pe’er in the doubles tournament of the Bangalore Open for fear of violent protests by India’s Islamic community.
The two friends were prevented from cooperating in last month’s Australian Open for the same reason.
Mirza initially agreed to play with Pe’er in Bangalore, but later retracted, telling Pe’er “It’s best that we don’t play together this time to prevent protests against my cooperation with an Israeli. There is no reason to arouse their ire (Muslims).”
Mirza, a sports hero in her country, was recently chastised by Muslim groups in India for wearing a sleeveless top and a mini-skirt during her matches. Local Muslim groups claimed that her attire degrades Islam, and some even threatened to kill her.
'I am opposed to pre-marital sex'
At the same time, extremists in many cities took to the streets in protest, and the WTA decided to assign bodyguards to protect the star during a tournament in Calcutta.
As a result, Mirza was also stripped of a few advertising campaigns, costing the young tennis player significant income.
Last November Mirza stirred controversy when during a New Delhi conference she spoke of the importance of safe sex; Muslim groups in New Delhi and three other cities held rallies, with protesters carrying signs reading “Mirza is detached from Islam,” claiming she is “corrupting the youth in the country, especially the girls.”
Mirza, in an attempt to ease tensions, said in response “I want to make it clear that I am opposed to pre-marital sex. It is a major sin in Islam, and I believe God would not forgive for such an act.”
Pe’er’s coach, Oded Yaakov, said “It is understandable that Mirza would not want to ‘ignite’ the protesters against her once again. The situation in India is sensitive as is. I want to believe that she will cooperate with Shahar in the future.”