The hijab takes on chess and gambling


America’s chess champion will not agree to wear a hijab, the modest head covering endorsed by religious Muslims, in order to participate in the 2017 Championship being held in Iran next year. She has decided to boycott the dress code that she must cover her hair.

Whether or not women can play chess at all in the presence of men without a head covering isn’t the only issue barring women and people in general for playing chess. Strict adherents to Muslim law believe that chess is a form of gambling and should not be played at all. Chess has been largely banned in Iran over the last few decades. The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia banned it this year. In other Muslim countries like Turkey you’d be hard pressed to find men not playing checker or chess.

Semitic religions in the Middle East have long considered gambling to be prohibited but it is in these very places where some of the biggest casinos and software companies that enable gambling have been created. The Middle East is fraught with mixed messages and double standards and those that go against the norms often do because they are operating with “protection” or outside the law. Or they simply don’t care.

It used to be common, when there were better relations between Israel and their Palestinian neighbors, that visitors to Israel could easily go to West Bank locations like Jericho for a taste of Middle East casinos. For western tourists, playing poker in the Middle East can be considered big fun even though it causes misery to those who lose. Hence the prohibition by religious clerics. With so many double standards at play, you get a taste of why the Middle East appears to be in a massive mess.

Consider: environmental researchers in countries like Israel and Turkey may be very progressive but getting any laws enacted, and polluters fined is an uphill battle that government-funded prosecutors must face with few resources and tangible threats in hand.


Americans are not free from the double signals endorsed by law makers. There is a lot at stake when it comes to online gaming and gambling. Now we are not taking positions on the US election but consider that Donald Trump’s primary financier is Sheldon Adelson, who is Jewish. Worth billions thanks to Las Vegas casinos he owns, and married to an Israeli, you can see how far traditional religious law has taken him. He does argue and fight however against legislation in the US to allow online gambling platforms to proliferate. Adelson warns that online gambling can be dangerous to children.

It can also be dangerous to his existing cash flow.

We know readers here are mostly based in the US and the UK. But there are also plenty of online casinos accessible from the Middle East. Some turn to the UK’s many casino sites, such as the British – Vegas William Hill. The proliferation of gambling sites has covered the globe thanks to an Israeli company called Playtika which was just sold to a Chinese bidder for more than $4 billion dollars. Playtika is considered a competitor to Farmville creators Zynga. In the social gaming or gambling world there is little division between playing games and gambling for money.

I am okay with gambling if you are okay with throwing away money. Not okay if you are betting on gambling to make your dreams come true. Only hard work will make that happen. Not the luck of the draw.

We will be watching the news on chess playing and hijab unfold. What do you think? Should women playing in Iran be forced to participate in local dress customs?

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