Pakistan is often portrayed as an epicentre of religious extremism. After 9/11, foreign journalists tripped over themselves reporting thousands of bin Laden supporters rallying in Karachi. Yes, thousands!
Now you don’t need a PhD in demography to realise a few thousand out of a city’s population exceeding 11 million isn’t a storm in a teacup. You also don’t need a Nobel prize in anthropology (if such an award exists) to know that the religion most Pakistanis are really fanatical about is what my mum calls “kirkit”.
Confused? Here’s a clue. At the height of the Danish cartoon frenzy, I wrote:
In my birthplace of Karachi, frenzied Pakistanis hit the streets with protests that did more damage to the Pakistani economy than to anyone in Denmark … Then again, some of these men … will protest each time they think a Pakistani batsman is given out ‘lbw’ unfairly.
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Once again, “some of these men” violently protest over allegedly poor umpiring. Yesterday’s The Oz website showed a photo of Pakistani cricket fans burning effigies of an Aussie umpire with greater vigour than they might otherwise burn Danish flags.
These same allegedly staunch Muslims certainly weren’t burning Dean Jones effigies after he was caught out describing a South African Muslim cricketer as a “terrorist”.
If Pakistan’s cricketing fundamentalism had a Grand Mufti or Ayatollah, it would have to be former fast bowling legend turned conservative politician Imran Khan. Describing Aussie Umpire Darrell Hair as a “mini-Hitler”, Imran is now calling upon Pakistani players to sue the umpire for defamation. And if they pay me well enough, I’d be happy to act.
Still, I guess it’s better than Imran calling for the Australian High Commission in Islamabad to be burnt down. His litigious suggestion might have had legs but for a joint statement endorsed by the Pakistan Cricket Board which reads: “In accordance with the laws of cricket it was noted that the umpires had correctly deemed that Pakistan had forfeited the match and awarded the Test to England.”
It’s hard for cricketing agnostics like myself to take all this seriously. I just hope Billy Birmingham finds enough material in this saga for another classic piece of spoof commentary.