[Please see last post for backstory: http://docmitasha.wordpress.com/2007/09/24/make-note-india-won-the-indian-cricket-team-not-a-religion/ Also see the comments trackbacks to get some other interesting views on the subject]
This post has brought in a large number of readers here, and a couple trackbacks too, for which I am flattered (even the contrary opinions). I wanted to add a couple of points to those still interested in this debate:
1. Mr Malik or his representatives have still not made an apology or clarified his statement…DISAPPOINTING.
Overall, I think the controversy’s blowing over, which is a good thing, and should be attributed in part to the wise sections of the prominent media that realized that it would be best to cut off his words in most news (as far as I’ve seen) than let it propagate and cause more disturbance or even violence.
2. More people have made the argument regarding his English, which I didn’t really focus on in my piece. I respect their opinions completely, but I wonder here: even if he wanted to say “all Pakistani Muslims,” its still not right. What about the many Hindus/Christians in Pakistan? And if he meant prayers or anything else, I don’t see how the word Muslims come in. No matter how objectively I try to look at it, it just doesn’t make sense. And if he wanted to talk about prayers, give thanks to Allah (as did Irfan, etc.), he still didn’t need to use the word Muslims. I’ve heard a lot of bad English, and I sympathize, but this sentence is politically incorrect no matter what twist you put on it, and it just isn’t excusable. This is completely ignoring the other argument…why Malik, an international cricketer, has such bad English in the first place. I don’t personally know much about him and his background, but I think that gives him less credit than should be due.
3. My first post was written somewhat in the heat of the moment, and though I did not say anything too negative or harsh (in my opinion!), I do realize in retrospect that I put too much burden on Shoaib Malik himself, and thats unfair. I meant to include those whose job it is to PR him, to coach him in a sense. I’m sure a cricket team as distinguished and popular as Pakistan’s has someone like that, who kind of makes sure the celebrities know the right thing to say and don’t do anything stupid in public that could endanger their career (Britney Spears needs to fire hers, for example). These individuals should be held equally responsible, in my opinion, for not being diplomatic enough and taking care to wipe up his blunder and provide an explanation.
3. Why should a cricketer be politically correct? And why is there a need/controversy? Because a sportsperson has a humongous role to play. A sportsperson is an idol for millions and millions of children, teenagers, adults. He’s watched/loved/hated/worshipped by millions, who watch for what he does, what he has to say, how he thinks. The human being is after all a monkey, and “monkey do and say as monkey see” the alpha dogs of society do and say, to put it crudely. Like any celebrity, or politician, they have a duty and role to play in the society that has contributed to their fame, success, wealth. Like it or not, they have a responsibility because they have an influence (with great power comes great responsibility, as Spiderman was told).
And Malik has that duty. Even if its a burden, he has to stick to it. It was brought into the sport because he did, and at a very tense time as today, when everyone’s confused and scared and education about key subjects is inadequate. Ignorant people already equate all Muslims with terrorism or violence or group them all to come from the same country, etc. You might say its not our duty to fix stupidity…but if we don’t, guess who’s living in a dangerous world? US. And our children. I’m not exaggerating at all from Malik’s comment, because I’m too fully aware of the possible, scary consequences. One comment has started riots in the past, a single phrase, a single action. As a celebrity, Malik has the power to enable that danger, or suppress it.
To end with a more direct comparison: What if Shah Rukh Khan, one of the most influential men in India at least were to suddenly declare that he attributed all his success to Muslims? I think they’d be more than an uproar. Or if Pakistani singer Atif Aslam, whose amazing talent has brought him a huge opportunities and a market in India and the entire world, were to publicly state that he’d like to thank only the people of Pakistan, or Muslims worldwide for his success. He wouldn’t. It would be the stupidest, most dangerous mistake of his life, his career would be dead on the spot (which, on a side note, would be a tremendous pity) and it would be terribly mean to his die-hard fans of every faith and race and country. Or if the New England Patriots apologized to all Christians for their cheating scandal, and Michael Vicks apologized to all African-Americans for his dog-fighting case. I know, these all sound ridiculous, but they’re exactly parallel to Malik’s case–they are successes and failures, but they can’t be connected to anything else except to what they concern. IF any of these were to be true (lets hope they never are), how would you feel and react? I think there would be a LOT of anger, disappointment, shock and controversy. Wouldn’t it be a big deal, and pretty important to deal with, sort through and kind of smooth over?
Lets just make it easier on everyone in the world. When you’re in a position to attract a lot of attention (I think it’d be somewhat safe to say a little less than 1/4 of the world’s population was attracted by the match), when people listen to you and look at you as some kind of representative, then you need to watch what you say. And when you make a blunder, you need to take responsibility and apologize, and fix things the best you can. Because the rest of us, who can’t make their voices of reason be heard in a world where religious tensions take thousands of lives each day, are kind of counting on people like you to atleast do that much and not feed the fire.
EDIT: Here’s a different post, with another point to consider: http://desicritics.org/2007/09/26/070523.php