Image courtesy of: Zimbio
Legendary Pakistan pace bowler Shoaib Akhtar has said that his comments about religious discrimination in the national team were blown way out of proportion and taken out of context.
Akhtar’s remarks come after he claimed that former leg-spinner Danish Kaneria had been the victim of religious discrimination.
Kaneria backed up Akhtar’s comments and called on other players to come forward and confirm this.
However, many Pakistan cricketers, including captain Azhar Ali, legendary all-rounder Shahid Afridi, ex-batsman Mohammad Yousuf, former skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq and batting great Javed Miandad, have denied there being any instances of religious discrimination.
Given the backlash that ensued after he first made the shocking allegations, this caused Akhtar to clarify his earlier remarks.
“For the past two days, a big controversy has been created around me, and I was listening and watching all this, and what I wanted to do was to carefully listen and understand what was being said by people, so I was taking my sweet time,” Akhtar said on his YouTube channel as quoted by PakPassion.
“So I am going to explain to you why I said that and what was the reason for it.
“The reason I launched my YouTube channel was that, apart from entertainment and cricket talk, I talk about and preach things that bring improvement to society.
“There is an unwritten contract in the team culture which says that we will respect each other, but some hesitation was shown from the side of the players (to implement this). This is not the code of conduct of our team.
“This is due to one or two players, and such one or two players exist everywhere.
“As a product of this society, I decided to deal with the problem then and that’s why I said sternly that I will throw you out if you talk like that.
“And to back me up, I had another companion who said what Shoaib is saying is correct and you must not say or do such things.
“As you may remember, Pakistan was fighting against extremism and this is about 15 years ago, and extremism had gone beyond all control.
“At that time we had made up our minds to look after and respect each other. You should all appreciate the fact that Shoaib Akhtar snubbed the issue at that point. As a nation we suppressed this vile thing right at that time. We did not let this sort of behaviour continue and, as you know, as a society we have improved a lot in the last 10-15 years.
“We have started to give each other more space and the biggest example of that is that our PM (Prime Minister Imran Khan) has opened up the Kartarpur corridor. [The] reason that has been done is to open up places of worship for all races, creeds and sects.
“There are such players everywhere in the world who pass racist comments. I am hoping that religious tourism opens and there is even a place of worship for Hindus in Kashmir that the PM Sahib would like to open up as well.
“The reason I said ‘that’ was not to say that the culture of our country is where we discriminate against people. Most discriminatory remarks are made against Muslims, and most of the time Muslims are given harsh treatment.
“All I did was talk about one or two black sheep that could be found in India or Pakistan or England or Holland – anywhere in the world.
“We don’t want others to suffer in the way we are being treated, and I am talking about something that happened 15 years ago and you should all be happy that myself and one or two people like me snubbed this sort of thinking as they wanted to make sure that such a culture does not come into our team.
“People tried to make this into a matter of religion and to politicize this. This is all very childish and childlike behaviour – we are coming to 2020, and this is not 1920 where you can instigate a religious war by making up news. People have become much wiser now.
“I don’t think what I said was wrong, what I said was that some guys had said this and I snubbed them and said I would throw them out if they said this again.
“[The] reason I said that was Danish had won many games for Pakistan and he should have been given credit for that.
“Pakistan never discriminated and threw Danish Kaneria out, if he was removed from cricket, it was due to the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board).
“Pakistan never threw him out or banned him, he had a match-fixing issue which the ECB raised and then they punished him and [it] would be wrong to say that Pakistan was unfair to him.
“Whatever I said about Danish Kaneria, I stand by that statement.
“I will never back down from that and nor am I [the person] who backs down from such things.”