24 Jul 2019

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Sarfaraz Ahmed caught making racist remarks

Pakistan cricket captain Sarfaraz Ahmed was caught on camera making a racist remark against a South African batsman during the second one day international on Tuesday. Being the captain of the side and a senior player, Ahmed should have known better.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has a clear policy on racism in its code of conduct which is meant to be followed by all national cricket boards.

The Anti-Racism Code for Participants implemented by the international body that regulates the sport leaves absolutely no room for conduct that can be offensive towards someone’s race, religion, culture, colour, descent, and national or ethnic origin. The code states, “Engaging in any conduct (whether through the use of language, gestures or otherwise), which is likely to offend, insult, humiliate, intimidate, threaten, disparage or vilify any reasonable person in the position of a player, player support personnel, umpire, match referee, umpire support personnel or any other person (including a spectator) on the basis of their race, religion, culture, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin.”

While the appropriate ICC forum will determine how best to deal with Ahmed’s offensive remark, the PCB must take this incident as a warning against what seems to its lax enforcement of the code of conduct. That the remark was racist is beyond doubt and, therefore, it necessitates corrective action. As the PCB determines the nature of that action, it must be considered that the remark was made by the captain himself who is a senior player and is meant to set example for the juniors to follow.

File Photo-Sarfaraz Ahmed of Pakistan celebrates scoring his century© Getty Images File Photo-Sarfaraz Ahmed of Pakistan celebrates scoring his centurySome commentators on social media platforms have noted the possibility that players in South Asian region perhaps are still unaware of the racist nature of the slur used by Ahmed. It makes the situation all the more worrying if that is the case, because that means we aren’t just dealing with an individual’s action, but with a systemic problem, and that cricket boards responsible for inculcating internationally acceptable norms of behaviour in players are themselves lacking in awareness.

Another worrying aspect of the situation is that the public opinion seems to be supportive of Ahmed, at least on social media platforms. Again, this leaves us with the worrying possibility that there isn’t much of a know-how about racism in the society either. Indeed, such a worry maybe well-founded given how stereotypes associated with dark skin colour or with specific ethnic and religious groups are so mainstream in the region – popularity of personal care products like creams and lotions for fair skin colour are an obvious example.

The struggle against racism has a global history that encompasses the world of sports as well. During the apartheid era, all white South African sporting teams were boycotted by various regulatory bodies, including the one that governs the game of cricket. Apartheid was racism institutionalized, and it led to systemic discrimination against non-whites. As a global community, we have moved past the days of apartheid, however, the ghosts from the past continue to lurk in our midst, and they must be condemned in all their forms and corrective actions initiated immediately.

Therefore, the PCB must use this incident as an opportunity to initiate an extensive programme of education not just for the players but also for coaches, managers, umpires as well as its administrative staff. Since the problem exists at a structural level, it must be dealt with accordingly. *

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