By P Prem Kumar
International football governing body FIFA has revoked the rights for Malaysia to host its 2017 congress, after Israeli delegates complained it was not being hospitable enough.
Malaysia's deputy prime minister confirmed to reporters Saturday that the revocation was due to complaints that Malaysia was "not being friendly in granting travel documents".
"We have a policy that we cannot accept countries with whom we have no diplomatic ties, what more with the flag which would have to be hung outside the conference and on the tables," said Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Malaysia and Israel have no formal diplomatic relations, due to Israel's ongoing tensions with the Palestinian people.
"The risks are too high compared to the benefits so it’s better if we avoid being the host to the conference because we understand the sensitivities in our country," he underlined.
He defended Malaysia's action by claiming that hosting the congress could hurt the sensitivities of Malaysians, particularly Muslims.
According to international media reports, FIFA informed the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) Aug. 9 that hosting rights for its 2017 congress had been revoked because "some delegates" faced difficulty obtaining travel visas.
The FAM has said little, but is expected to raise the issue during an executive committee meeting Aug. 15.
Malaysia was awarded the hosting rights in 2013, with the congress scheduled to hold a voting session that will decide the host nation of the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
Malaysia has slammed Israel's actions in the Palestinian heartlands as "intrusions," and constantly criticized its "brutal actions" against the Palestinian people.