A popular Turkish imam has sparked controversy by claiming that chess is ‘un-Islamic’ and those who play the game are ‘liars.’

Televangelist Ahmet Mahmut Ünlü, commonly known as “Cübbeli Ahmet Hoca,” also suggested those who play the strategic board game are committing graver sins than “gambling or eating pork,” both of which are forbidden in Islam.

“People who play chess may not say the shahada while they are dying,” Turkish media quoted Unlu as saying.

The shahada is the Islamic testimony in which an individual declares belief in the oneness of God and accepts Mohammad as His prophet.

Instead of playing chess, Unlu suggested Muslims should count their ‘Tesbih’ or prayer beads.

In response, the Turkish Chess Federation announced legal proceedings against Unlu, calling his comments “baseless” and accusing him of hurtful rhetoric at a time when the country needs “unity, peace and the philosophy of chess,” according to a statement on the Federation’s website.

The statement also lauds the country’s rich history of the game alongside notable athletic achievements at the Olympics and European Championships.