Couch cricketer Irfan Yusuf writes:

Has Dean Jones suddenly become the Mel Gibson of cricket commentating?

During a test between Sri Lanka and South Africa in Colombo, Jones uttered the words “the terrorist has got another wicket” when South African cricketer and devout Muslim Hashim Amla took a catch to dismiss Kumar Sangakkara. Amla sports a beard for religious reasons, and doesn’t wear sponsoring brewery logos on his uniform.

So why should viewers jam the phone lines of TV stations in Sri Lanka and South Africa? Well, that’s a bit like asking why Americans should be so shocked at Mel Gibson’s drunken tirades against Jews?

I hate talking up the existence of powerful lobbies. It makes things sound oh-so conspiratorial. But just as there is a perceived powerful Jewish lobby in the US, Sri Lanka and South Africa also have powerful Muslim lobbies. Around 15% of Sri Lanka’s population is Muslim, and they are active in all areas of Sri Lankan life – politics, media, the judiciary and business.

South Africa’s Muslims include descendants of the powerful “Memon” merchant clans who migrated from Bombay. (The ones still in Bombay have a major stake in various businesses including Bollywood, IT companies and even smuggling!) South Africa also has a powerful community descended from Malays. These “Cape Coloured” Muslims have intermarried with other nationalities – it’s not unusual to meet a Cape Town dude named Muhammad who is part-Malay, part-Dutch, part-Indian with surname “Mathews”.

You don’t mess with the South African Muslim lobby. Even during the Apartheid years, the lobby was a formidable force. South Africa was the first country to ban Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses.

Muslims played a prominent role in the anti-Apartheid movement. Nelson Mandela’s Muslim lawyer became South Africa’s first Justice Minister. And if Pru Goward thinks she’s the discrimination guru, she should meet Sheik Farid Esack, a Muslim cleric appointed South Africa’s first Commissioner for Gender Equality.

Still, it is good to see the Muslim cricketer involved taking it in good spirits. Back to Mel Gibson, let your sides split as you watch Jackie Mason’s interview on FoxNews in which he defends Gibson and lampoons certain lobbyists …

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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