Freedom of Religion

Real Madrid and the offence of the cross

 

It was a really tiny cross. Honestly, it was barely noticeable in all that pearly pizzazz and gaudy gold. The Crown of Alfonso XII has been a sacred symbol of the Spanish Monarchy for more than 300 years, and that symbolism is reified by the Christian cross which sits at the crest of majesty. God has appointed; Christ is the source of wisdom; the Church proclaims its earthly sovereign. Europe still resonates with the echoes of Christendom: our history is undeniable; the fons et origo of our law, morality, freedom and fraternity are irrefutable.

But not for Spain’s supreme football team Real Madrid, who, despite proudly bearing the ‘Royal’ epithet, have excised the cross of Christ’s regency from their iconic crest after securing a sponsorship deal with the National Bank of Abu Dhabi. Apparently it’s only the sponsored credit card which carries the theologically-emasculated emblem. But that credit card doubles as the Real Madrid club membership card, so escaping sharia sensitivities censorship would appear to be impossible.

This brand variation is to accommodate the club’s Muslim fans in the United Arab Emirates, where the cross might be considered something of a stumbling block. But the new new design is therefore likely to apply to the crest’s reproduction throughout the entire Middle East, for the crucifixion of Jesus is a scandal of faith to all Muslims: their Jesus is no “suffering servant” but the prophet of miracles: He did not suffer the shame and degradation of death on a cross. Those who hang on a tree are cursed by God.

It is ironic – is it not – as the Islamic State is rampaging throughout the region, desecrating churches, destroying ancient tombs and tearing down all icons and crosses in a systematic programme of ‘religious cleansing’, that Europe is becoming complicit in this cultural conversion. While ISIS is busy crucifying Christians and cutting off their heads, Real Madrid is denying Christ by cutting off the symbol of salvation, justification and saving grace. They might as well replace it with the black Islamic flag (they haven’t, of course: the apex of the modified crown is left bare. The revision above is simply symbolic of our political acquiescence, economic deference and religious passivity which only bolster the Islamist zeal for the Caliphate and world domination).

The National Bank of Abu Dhabi may be politically prestigious, mighty powerful and filthy rich, but quite why Real Madrid’s historic monarchism and the Spanish King’s unashamed Christian profession should bow in worship of sharia fascism is the €90 million (“strategic alliance”) question (over three years). It isn’t as though Spain isn’t sensitive to the evils of autocracy and the injustices of totalitarianism. Perhaps in the globalisation of sport the market transcends morality: the cross of Christ must be subject to Sharia Mammon where it is expedient to do so. If Real Madrid seeks to conquer the hearts of potential new followers in the UAE, the National Bank of Abu Dhabi is more than happy to sponsor their conversion.

But it is curious that the cross should be excised to avoid giving offence to Real Madrid’s Muslim fans without, it appears, much consideration at all of the offence this might give to its Christian fans. How many Spanish Roman Catholic followers of ‘Los Blancos’ are disquieted if not aggrieved at the eradication of the club’s historic Christian identity in order to appease Islam? What is the point of winning hearts in the UAE if you’re losing them in the EU?