Jakarta Indonesia

Muslim protestors mark the anti-Israel Al-Quds Day in Jakarta, Indonesia. (AP/Tatan Syuflana)

Indonesia, a Muslim-majority country, has denied an athlete entry to the championship games there only because he represents the State of Israel.  

The Muslim country of Indonesia is barring an Israeli athlete from entering the country to participate in the upcoming Badminton World Championships, which start on Monday.

Gili Lustig, secretary-general of the Olympic Committee of Israel (OCI), confirmed that badminton player Misha Zilberman has not been granted a visa to enter Indonesia — the world’s most populous Muslim country — because he is Israeli.

Zilberman, 26, was denied an entry visa despite having submitted his application six months ago and providing all the necessary documentation.

The athlete has been waiting in Singapore for the entry permits for more than two weeks.

The OCI is working with the Badminton World Federation to try to resolve the issue in time for Zilberman to compete.

According to a Jerusalem Post update, Zilberman is set to arrive in Jakarta on Monday escorted by Badminton World Federation Secretary General Thomas Lund, but the Israeli player is still unsure if he will be ready to play his first-round match at the world championships on Tuesday.

The OCI said on Sunday that it will demand compensation for Zilberman with ranking points due to the ordeal he was forced to endure in recent weeks.

Israel does not have formal diplomatic relations with Indonesia or many other Muslim-majority countries, some of which had previously denied visas to Israeli athletes.

‘Keep Politics Out of Sports’

World Jewish Congress (WJC) CEO Robert Singer criticized the authorities in Indonesia for “unfairly mixing politics and sports” by denying a visa to Zilberman.

“This decision to bar an Israeli player from an international sporting competition can’t stand, and I urge Indonesia to allow Misha Zilberman to compete in these championships,” Singer said.

“Let’s be clear about this: here we have yet another blatant attempt to mix politics and sports, and to exclude Israeli athletes from international competitions. If this decision is upheld, it will do harm to Indonesia’s standing in the world and it will raise the question whether Indonesia is the right place to hold such prestigious events,” he added.

Singer also attacked the organizer of the games, the Badminton World Federation (BWF), for its inaction on the matter and for not providing assistance to Zilberman. “If athletes are excluded on political grounds, at the very least there should be some soul-searching going on. This sad episode casts a shadow on the event, and the failure of the BWF leadership to use its leverage speaks volumes.”

By: AP and United with Israel Staff