Thursday, August 24, 2006

Religion = Honesty?

Religion = Honesty?

By now, even people – like me – with very little interest in sport will have heard about the controversy surrounding the cricket test match between England and Pakistan. Long story short: Pakistan were accused of ‘ball tampering’ and the dispute that followed led to a stand-off between the team and the umpires and Pakistan ultimately forfeited the match.

I’m sure there’s more to it in the detail, but to use an obvious pun, I don’t really give a toss. Let’s face it, in sport, these controversies arise all the time. Hardly a month goes by without some news of an athlete stripped of their medal because they’d been taking some hay fever medication with a banned ingredient, or some Grand Prix driver forced to start from the back for some reason unfathomable to the layperson. And then of course there’s football…

At the end of the day, it all seems rather over-inflated… grown men either whacking balls (or each other) away or chasing after them for whopping great salaries.

But two responses to the England-Pakistan match in the media caught my eye. Both leave unpleasant tastes in the Humanist mouth.

Firstly, The Guardian made it a race/religion issue. In it’s leader on Monday, the paper said:

“The dispute was not between England and Pakistan, which may allow the forthcoming one day series to continue. But it can only fuel the alienation felt by some British Muslims at a time of great strain.”

Shahriyar Khan or the Pakistand Cricket Board and Bob Woolmer, the Pakistan coach seemed keen to run with this theory and appeared to accuse Darrel Hare, the umpire, of fomenting WW III.

In a very sensible editorial, The Times took them to task:

Shahriyar Khan, the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, appears most confused. “What a wonderful sight it is to see cricket between Pakistan, a Muslim country, and England, where the majority are Christian. Why destroy this over a technicality?” he asked. With respect, Shahriyar does not know his technicalities from his elbow. The rules of cricket are not a technicality; Muslims and Christians, in this context, are. The most stupid, the most catastrophically misguided aspect of this debate is the one that insists on bringing the world of religious politics into a row about cheating in a cricket match.
Hair, we are told, has added to the volatile relationship between East and West. So, presumably, the next time London or Bali goes up, we can attach his decision to the list of liberal hand-wringing explanations for the atrocity. “Iraq, Palestine, Israel, Lebanon — and that Aussie bloke who called Pakistan for ball-tampering at the Oval. Well, what did we expect?” It is shocking the way a decision made purely in a sporting arena has been so self-servingly transferred to the political.

“All the Muslim players are sensitive individuals who are very opposed to terrorist activities,” Bob Woolmer, the Pakistan coach, said. “To accuse Pakistan of cheating brings these tensions to the fore. I wonder whether Darrell realises the consequences of his actions.”

What consequences? What tensions? Are we meant to applaud Woolmer’s Pakistan team for their sensitivity in not endorsing mass murder? Are we meant to worry that, having been accused of ball-tampering, they now will?

Pure insanity. Or political opportunism. Either of which, rational people ought to knock for a six.

Secondly – and this is what really got my goat – former cricketer Geoffrey Boycott  writes in The Telegraph:

“Ball-tampering is a sensitive issue for the Pakistanis and that is why they staged their protest yesterday. They wanted to make a statement because the reputation of the team and the integrity of Pakistan cricket had been called into question. You have to remember that the Pakistan players are deeply religious and pray five times a day, so an allegation of cheating hurts them.”


What on earth makes Boycott think that the more religious people are, the more they will be hurt by accusations of cheating or dishonesty? Does he really imagine that non-religious people are any less concerned about being thought of as fair and honest?

Why do we have this knee-jerk assumption in society that religious people are automatically more virtuous than the rest of us? (Let’s face it, the evidence is often quite the reverse.)

Is it not perhaps the very fact that this common assumption exists that religious groups are allowed to get away with so much? If people aren’t apologising for them, they’re cultivating an ever growing blind-spot. Even people who are not religious have some ‘reverence’ for the vicar. Instead of mocking their insane moonbattery, many of tend to think that the pious are more “spiritual” than their neighbours, more “virtuous”…

And of course, it is this tosh that allows religious commentators to tell politicians with a straight face that - even if people don’t believe in a god - religion instills essential ethical and moral concepts in the developing mind. Without our CofE grounding, even Atheists would be morally adrift… or so they say.

No, the fact that the Pakistan team is very religious should in no way be relevant to assessing their propensity to cheat (or not to cheat) or the level of offence they take at the accusation.

The fact is, no one likes being called a cheat.


At 10:47 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mate, I find this post racist, how dare you criticise the pakistani team for their reaction to an allegation that has not been substantiated? True what they say, the gay community is sooooo racist.
But then im sure the pakistani muslim team would love to score a six with a gays head!

At 10:55 am, Blogger Brett Lock said...

Hahahaha! You do a great parody of a functionally illiterate moron who misses the point. Well done. Still chuckling.

At 7:20 pm, Anonymous richard farnos said...

Brett, do you ever construstively respond to cristism? Why not address Anonymouses concerns than make cheap points!

All the best

At 9:00 pm, Blogger Brett Lock said...

Richard. First of all, I did not criticise the Pakistan cricket team. It is quite plain that my post did not express any opinion about the match itself and focused instead on two responses in the media concerneing religion and ethics. Even if I did have an opinion one way or another about a sporting controversy (which I don't) I fail to see how this would have anything to do with race. Secondly - and more importantly - I do not engage people who threaten homophobic violence. If you'd like to converse with someone who'd like to see people knocking your decapitated head around a field with a bat, feel free.

At 12:31 am, Anonymous richard farnos said...

Well, Brett, While indeed 'Anonymous' is clearly a homophobe, that does not mean that you can ignore the racist overtones in The Times and Telegraph editorials. Moreover your evident ignorance of Cricket and the complete (racist?) overreaction to the bending of the rules by an Umpire evidently more interested in making money that spirit of the game, does beg questions. Since you evidently have not a clue what your talking about, why don't you shut up?

At 10:24 am, Blogger Brett Lock said...

Richard, can't you read either? My point - once again - has nothing to do with the controversy around the ball fixing decision. My point concerns the assumptions that religious people are automatically more honest and/or more likely to be offended when accused of cheating. My critcism is of these assumptions by media commentators, hence the title of the piece: "Religion = Honesty?"

Secondly, where are the racist overtones in The Telegraph piece? The Telegraph piece was by Geoff Boycott who was sympathetic to the Pakistan team. I criticised his piece on the basis above, so how "anonymous" and now you can claim I'm 'ignoring the racist overtones' of this piece (a piece which in any event I criticised rather than endorsed) is rather bewildering. But why are you accusing Geoff Boycott of racsim?

The Times piece simply questioned the sense of bring religious politics into a sporting controversy and criticised the pundits who did so. I don't see how their piece is racist. Perhaps you'd like to explain.

At 8:29 pm, Anonymous richard farnos said...

Brett, do you really believe that there would be all this palaver if it concerned Australia cricket team? Or would the issue simply be confind to the sport pages.

At 10:16 pm, Blogger Brett Lock said...

Richard, perhaps you didn't notice, but that was exactly my point: it *should* be confined to the sports pages, but instead, The Guardian tried to make it a race/religius issue, as did Geoff Boycott in the Telegraph. That is precicesly what I was criticising.

At 2:06 pm, Anonymous richard farnos said...

Well if that was your aim, then good on you. However that not how it reads, to me it looks just another attempt to have a pop at Muslims. If I misundertand then I am sorry.

At 2:12 pm, Blogger Brett Lock said...

Oh for goodness sake, Richard, what in this article can in any way be construed as "having a pop at Muslims"?

At 2:54 pm, Anonymous John Hein said...

What's wrong with having a pop at any species of superstitionist?

At 9:38 pm, Blogger Brian Miller said...

Honestly Richard, you're really becoming a parody of yourself.

At 11:01 pm, Anonymous richard farnos said...

Well Brett, John Hein evidently sees your article as a pop at Muslims.

John, while it is perfectly valid to critic any and all believe systems, I hope you agree that it dangerous to demonise a whole group of people. Your comment seems to be unclear on this point.

Brian, I am quite happy to have an adult conversation with you when you grow up an stop attacking me as individual and start to address my points.

All the best

At 11:20 pm, Blogger Brett Lock said...

No, John Hein said nothing of the sort. He asked a rhetorical question, which I assume is a hypothetical response to your allegations... alegations which, despite repeated requests, you have failed to substantiate. Please explain how my article criticising The Guardian and The Telegraph was "having a pop at Muslims".

At 12:22 am, Blogger Brian Miller said...

I am quite happy to have an adult conversation with you when you grow up an stop attacking me as individual and start to address my points.

You first, mon ami.

You remind me a bit of the Rush Limbaugh Republicans in my own home who relentlessly assail all who disagree with them as hateful lunatics, and then react with hurt and anger when their tactics earn them a well-deserved rebuke.

As you sow, so shall you reap. If your entire dialectic is going to be muttering "Islamophobe" at anyone who criticises any sort of bizarre effort to mischaracterise various situations, you're eventually going to fall into even more of a stilted silo than the one you're trying to consign all who disagree with you to.


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