Monday, August 21, 2006

Cricket for Racists

Pakistan cricket captain Inzamam ul Haq sums up the farce that was yesterday's historic and racist first-ever forfeiture in 129 years of the sport.

In these days, the boundaries between politics and everyday life have been so atrociously blurred that not only are civilians paying the price for racist and prejudiced political maneuvering such as the still unconfirmed so-called "airplane terror plot" in the UK, but institutions once intended as benign leisure have also entered the ring of fire.

After the way Zinedine Zidane was treated during the World Cup final, there have been other incidents of post-September-11th racism in the world of sport that have marred the entire concept of sportsmanship while undeniably demonstrating the leashless power of the West --its governing bodies and institutions of all sorts -- to insult, denigrate and disrespect the ethnicities, cultures and religions of the great majority of the world that does not include them.

At the beginning of August, there was the almost comical, had it not been unabashed, incident of the Australian cricket commentator Dean Jones just days before the August 11 UK "terror-plot" incident pampered the Western media's desperate need to criminalize and antagonize a large number of people including, but not limited to: Muslims, Middle Easterners, South Asians, and Africans. In what Jones readily admits is not a personal fault but a shortcoming of the nature of broadcasting, after a Muslim South African cricket player, Hashim Amla (who happens to have a beard), made a play in a match against Sri Lanka Jones blurted out that "the terrorist has got another wicket." Jones, clearly despondent that his comment was made during a commercial break that unfortunately was broadcast in South Africa managed to apologize, though seemingly more for the technical difficulties than his clearly racist remark. "I...made a stupid, ridiculous off-the-wall comment that unfortunately was picked up in the background and, as television people always know, the microphone is always live," he said.

Jones was reprimanded and fired by the Dubai-based broadcasting company he was covering the match for (though the Australian radio station he usually commentates for has welcomed him back with open arms, naturally), but it seems likely he would have gotten away with it had he done it just a few days later, considering the fiasco that is now the Pakistan-England test match.

Yesterday, a well-known racist and cricket umpire with a history of false accusations against Muslim and South Asian cricket players, Darrell Hair, who also happens to be an Australian, halted play during the final match of a series between England and Pakistan to accuse the Pakistan team of tampering with the cricket ball. The series was 2-0 in favor of England and Pakistan was set to win the final match when the incident occurred. Hair, who has provided no evidence of tampering, has failed to accuse any single person of having tampered and who initiated and encouraged the series of events that caused Pakistan to forfeit the match, is thus far silent amidst the imbroglio he is undoubtedly relishing.

What does it take to be named and shamed as a racist? What does it take to be fired from a high profile or even a low profile position once you have been shamed as a racist? These are questions that have no answers in the West -- cricket umpires and commentators aside, an alarming number of Western political leaders have made statements, policies and comments that are clearly racist -- including, but not limited to Dickity Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Joe Lieberman, Tony Blair, Silvio Berlusconi, Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel, and John Reid, just to shame a few who are making headlines these days.

For the first time in a long time, Pakistan is taking a stand against the West to redeem its own dignity -- the Pakistan cricket team staged a protest shortly after the bogus call was made during yesterday's match -- a protest that led to the forfeiture of the match. They have now announced that they will no longer accept Hair as an umpire and it remains to be seen what final decision the International Cricket Board takes -- though so far they have sided with the hair-raising ploys of racism. Unsurprisingly, the Western-puppet president of Pakistan has taken this cricket fiasco as an opportunity to redeem himself to his people -- as if he had a choice: this is sport and not politics, after all -- and is siding with the team.

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