Pakistan News Service

Sunday Feb 17, 2019, Jumada-al-thani 11, 1440 Hijri

Rare chance to change the discourse to secular issues

24 March, 2007

By Jawed Naqvi

If victory in sports could be determined by matters of individual or collective faith of any team, then our world would make for a confounding, even c
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A few weeks before his team’s disastrous cricket defeat against Bangladesh in the World Cup qualifiers, Indian captain Rahul Dravid was in the wrong kind of news when he visited the headquarters of the religious revivalist RSS in Nagpur. The visit was condemned by a number of secular, liberal groups in India who otherwise greatly admire the cricketing skills of Dravid. The RSS is identified with obscurantism and mindless communal violence, and a visit to its offices by a national icon could not but trigger anger.

As for the Pakistani side, which got a right royal hiding from Ireland on the same day that India met its nemesis against Bangladesh, the team is increasingly known for the number of religious or sharai beards that are being sported its key players. We can detect a perceptible religious upsurge among several Pakistani team members. But it has neither helped them nor the team with any measure of success in the cricket field. If anything, Saturday’s second defeat for Pakistan in the cup qualifiers triggered considerable emotional venting on the web and in the mobile phone messaging circles.

One such angry message by an outraged cricket fan that came from Karachi said: “Pak cricket died at 3 am today. May its soul rest in peace. Funeral will be on March 21, after the match against Zimbabwe. Maulana Inzamam ul Haq Multani will lead the janaza prayer.” The writer’s sarcasm at the disappointing display of the game by Inzamam and his team was matched only by vitriol against a new tendency to sport religious beliefs, which despite a divine symbolism do not seem to have worked to Pakistan’s advantage.

If victory in sports could be determined by matters of individual or collective faith of any team, then our world would make for a confounding, even contrary example to cite. How would a predominantly Muslim country like Pakistan explain the 1983 win of non-believers from a country like India in the 1983 World Cup, and how would Indian groups like the RSS, who claim racial superiority for Hindus, explain Pakistan’s victory in 1992? (By the way, was there a single beard in Imran Khan’s winning squad in Australia?)

As a matter of fact both our countries are so full of themselves with their pompous religio-cultural perspectives that they can’t see how those of different cultures walk away more frequently with Olympic medals in every outing? Korean and Chinese athletes, for example, do not share the many dietary taboos of Indians and Pakistanis. They eat virtually everything under the sun, whereas we are bound by our religious limits as to what we can put in our plates. And yet the supposedly sinful and irreligious Chinese and Korean athletes would be merrily leading the cup tally at the coming Beijing Olympics, have no doubts about that. A less restrictive menu may not be directly responsible for the higher medal tallies for them, but it hasn’t come in their way of winning them either. That much has to be understood clearly by every sportsman, especially those who carry a talisman to bail them out of difficult spots in the course of a day’s play.

Although the founder of modern cricket was himself a bearded Englishman, there is nothing on record to suggest that Dr W.G. Grace allowed his batting skills to be guided by any religious beliefs as a Christian, if at all he was a man of faith. Today’s religious fervour not just in India and Pakistan but right across the world appears to have its roots in politics rather than in any organised religion itself. It suits those at the helm of our destiny to hide their banal and very much “this worldly” motives under the mullah’s cloak. For example the recent objective in Palestine has been to replace the secular discourse of a Yasser Arafat or a George Habbash with the more religiously imbued and dubiously wayward clout of Hamas.

We know that the men at the helm today had once overthrown the secular and popularly elected government of Sadegh Mossadegh in Iran for a very “this worldly” reason – all because he had opposed an Anglo-American sway over his country’s oil resources. Mosaddegh was no sabre-rattling Ahmadinejad and yet he was overthrown. However, brazen political perfidy is not always easy to repeat not the least because daylight robbery is not yet condoned by the United Nations. It has proved to be far easier to effect regime change and also to change the course of the dominant political dialogue by creating religion-based political interlocutors within the targeted national spaces. How can we not see that religion has proved to be a far more potent ally of corporate interests all over the world? When did we last hear of a religious group – say the MMA in Pakistan or the RSS in India -- waging a battle against the economic devastation effected by the so-called free market reforms that are being put in place in both countries with the active support of major powers and their financial outlets – the World Bank and the IMF?

Be it Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamisation of Pakistan or Gen Musharraf’s unravelling of that legacy in the name of war on terrorism, the context for the discourse is, and has been religion since the 1980s, not privatisation or free market reforms that are being supervised from the prime minister’s office. Similarly, Rajiv Gandhi prepared the ground in India way back in 1984 to launch his part of the country’s reforms by sharply shifting the focus away from economics to the then non-descript mosque-temple row, or the banning of Salman Rushdie even before Iran came into the frame and of course by setting back the country’s minority Muslims by several decades with the insidious support to the orthodoxy in the notorious Shah Bano divorce case. The BJP has only reheated the obscurantist discourse instigated by our secularism-mouthing Congress party. No election has been fought in India since 1989 without a prime focus on religious disputes in election manifestoes of the main parties.

Dr Manmohan Singh’s war on terror and Gen Musharraf’s war on terror have in a way served the same purpose -- to use a religion-based discourse to mask their potentially more insidious economic agenda. In recent days, for entirely wrong reasons perhaps, there has been a kindling of hope that a secular agenda can yet be re-launched in both the countries even though the political dice is still heavily loaded against such a move. The killing of 15 people in the communist-controlled West Bengal state in India could be the turning point in the discourse there. The communists, heading a Left Front government in the state for years, seem to have been suddenly taken up with the Chinese example and they have embarked on an industrialisation campaign in which the people are in all probability being left behind.

It is ironical that the killing of the people who had opposed the seizure of their land for an industrial project has come handy for the Hindu right too. But no religion-based party can sustain a popular economic agenda and the BJP will have to return to its core issues. In the meantime, there is ample room for a coalition of a secular agenda to take shape in India. In Pakistan too the recent action against the supreme court’s chief judge has galvanised both the secular and the religious opponents of the government into street action. The suspension of the judge and a mysterious attack on a TV channel’s offices in Islamabad now offer a good rare chance to Pakistan’s secular formations to return to major issues that are linked with the people’s wider support. The alternative is to focus more on beards as opposed to good cricket with disastrous consequences.

Jawed Naqvi can be reached at

Courtesy -- Dawn

Reader Comments:

nothing to be proud of

both india and pakistan has nothing to offer . just empty pride to its citizens. these countries cant give clean water to their nationals , security and basic hygine . wat to talk about gold medel in sports . the basic structure is not thee for anything. everything is infected with corrupt wild dogs people in power eating as much as posible ordinary person just sit and watch.

riky, Hungary - 24 March, 2007

Fact is that our 1999 and 2003 WC squads were the most SECULAR and the results were similar.

Faith or religion is a matter of choice just like some one chooses to be an athiest or secular etc.

Inzi's or Yousuf's beards are problem for the writer and this is beyond me.

M. Yousuf achieved his record last year while he openly practiced Islam as a devout Muslim.

Some players practice Yoga to get rid of stress and some play video games. Please understand that some people will turn to their faith to seek peace of mind.

Imran Khan, Wasim Akram allowed players to visit night clubs while playing abroad. Now I am sure you don't see anything wrong with this approach.

As a Muslim we are suppose to create a decent enviroment around us and Inzi has just done that.

Inzi is not forcing religion down anyone's throat. I would like to see Pakistani players enjoying their trips abroad in a decent fashion.

Imran Siddiqui, Canada - 24 March, 2007

Rare chance to change the discourse to secular issues

This article makes lot of sense. The game and culture of Cricket is very much secular. I hope with the exit of Inzy the Pakistan Cricket will go back to it's earlier roots of Fazal Mehomood, A. H. Kardar and Hanif Mohammed. Honestly, sporting a Taliban style beards has no place in modern cricket, including pushing one's religion.

Daoud Mateen, United Kingdom - 25 March, 2007

Rare chance

In any game there is always a winner and a loser. Pakistani Cricket team with Inzaman their Captain done too good over the years and himself got outstanding record of his runns.To be with beard or without got nothing to do of losing. That shows the poor performance of the team in this Cricket World Cup 20007. Mohammad Yusuf got a beard and he has broken many world records. There was not a single bearded player in Imran Khan’s winning squad in Australia but there was a determination to win. This time team lacked a determination and lot of people are to be blamed in the PCB. It would be better to bring retired players into Cricket Coaching, balling and teaching a good discipline. There is a need to inculcate a spirit in them. When they go in the ground they are there to hit the ball not induldge in day dreaming. Pakistani team is an outstanding squad with very good records but needs a bit of boost and encouragment. If they have not been able to make their way to top 8 teams so what. Look at the west where they spend huge sums of money in coaching and training still England has never won the world Cup. When Pakistani Team winns everyone likes them and if they don't then they are not consoled instead they are undermined. Given time to Pakistani team they will bounce back and will win in the next 2011 Cricket World Cup. My wishes are with the team.

mohammad, United Arab Emirates - 25 March, 2007

Pakistan cricket: A face of disappointment

Pakistan Cricket: A face of disappointment
By Wasi Siddiqui
(Member of Canadian Authors Association)

Ever since the Pakistani cricket team won the world cup in 1992, there seems to be a coincidence, when they were near to be ousted from the tournament, but one point they got as a result of rain and another team in the competition lost their game, turned out to be the key for Pakistani winning style, which eventually resulted in the winning the world cup.

This was the exactly the case in the current world cup 2007 , where Pakistan was playing against Ireland , and many Pakistani knew that , this will be the most easy game for Pakistan and will move ahead after winning the match with Ireland. The condition was ideal as Pakistani bowlers who are well-known of exploiting the moisture conditions and getting the opponents out with their bowling skills, as did by the great bowlers such as Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, and Waqar Yunis and spinners such as Mushtaq Ahmed, Saqlain Mushtaq, and world class wicketkeepers Rashid Latif, Moin Khan but alas, as these players are no more with Pakistani cricket team.

The shocking defeat against Ireland was a biggest upset and many cricket lovers, were disappointed to hear such a shameful news , that Pakistan has been defeated by Ireland and could not score more than 133 runs , not to forget that 30 runs are the extras runs given by the Ireland bowlers , so Pakistani cricket team actually scores only 103.

Pakistan, where politics plays an important role in deciding the man who will be the coach, manager and chief selectors, again was the victim of such poor selection of the team, the Pakistani cricket team which was selected includes 8 new players for the world cup, whom never played in one –day matches and most of them to face the world cup matches for the first time, and hardly a experience member can be found in the team.

Over the last few years, we have seen a number of coaches has been changed, including the great legend Javed Miandad, who has been completely ignored for many years, and foreign coaches are being hired and given priority over the Pakistani cricket heroes, such as Mushtaq Mohammad, Hanif Mohammad, Sarfraz Nawaz, and Wasim Akram, their contributions are always ignored and put a side, but one must pay high tributes to Bob Woolmer for excellent training he provided to Pakistan cricket team, but these players did not learn anything from him. What a shame !!!!

The politics must be removed from the cricket game on the permanent basis and only deserving people should be given the right to select the team on merit. The sudden death of the Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer is indeed a sad news, Although, his death looks suspicious but how one can denied that he may not have suffer a shock , watching his team being defeated by Ireland, after 4 years he spend with them in training . One cricket lover said “It was whole cricket team should have died of shame and not Bob Woolmer”.

If Politicians continue to interfere in the game affairs and then here is my suggestion which would eventually, solve the issue. The new cricket team is as follows:

New Pakistan Cricket Team
1- President of Pakistan
2- Prime Minister of Pakistan
3- Foreign Minister of Pakistan
4- Interior Minister of Pakistan
5- MNA President of Pakistan
6- Opposition Leader of Pakistan
7- Tharik-e- Insaf Chairman
8- Punjab Chief Minister
9- Sindh Chief Minister
10- Baluchistan Chief Minister
11- Pakistan Peoples party
12- Jamuri Watan party
13- Muslim League of Pakistan

wasi siddiqui, Canada - 25 March, 2007


Using a humiliating defeat to derate the beard in a manner portraying that if the key players were clean shaved then the world cup would be confirmed. Then going on to relate the genuine problems of the subcontinent to religion, and in the way forgetting that more serious woes are in this world due to capitalistic wars. Trying to portray that its religions fault that Zia And musharraf came into power forgetting that religion was abused by these generals to satisfy people who would help them stay in power. Forgetting that being a genuine man of faith and working hard for faith is mainly for help of the soul and the afterlife, and working hard and practicing hard, and playing hard, and selecting good players and good management, and not steeping to favuritism while selectino of players and making sure that the team has done their homework against an opposing team increases the chances of winning a match.

The writer, in my view, is no more narrowminded and ignorant than the mullahs who preach only hatred against America.

Ahmed Sajjad, Pakistan - 28 March, 2007

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