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Ahmed Shehzad – the traveling evangelist

dude bro

Anyone who follows cricket in Pakistan would remember the disastrous tour of Australia in 2009-2010. Under the captaincy of Mohammed Yousuf, Pakistan lost all three Test matches, all five one-day internationals and the only T20 match of that tour.

Many reasons were cited behind that calamitous tour, including a ball tampering incident involving Shahid Afridi; but one which was not discussed openly and was only whispered for a long time afterward was that batsman Mohammad Yousuf – a former Christian who had converted to Islam in 2005 – was more interested in Tableegh (religious preaching) than in playing cricket.

Later on, a number of tales came up. One of these described Yousuf as having spent the better part of his time running after Australian cricketers to preach to them the virtues of embracing Islam and how it had improved the quality of his life and how it would ensure them a place in heaven.

His efforts obviously did not pay off, for none of the Aussie cricketers converted, as far as we know. But his tableeghi stints did cost Pakistan the series – it was the most shameful showing of Pakistani cricket team in recent times – and his position as the captain of the national team and his career as a cricketer ended soon after. I am not saying that the two were directly related, but Yousuf’s well-built career died after that.

The latest entrant into the preacher zone is Ahmed Shehzad.

During the last one day international on Pakistan’s latest tour of Sri Lanka, Shehzad was recorded on camera telling Tillakaratne Dilshan,

after he scored a 50 and won the match for his team, that “if you are a non-Muslim and you turn Muslim, no matter whatever you do in your life, straight to heaven.”

Apparently Dilshan must have said something along the lines of “Thanks, but no thanks,” to which he later added, “Then be ready for the fire.” Presumably hellfire.

For starters, that was rude, uncalled for and totally inappropriate. It was not like Dilshan and Shehzad were indulging in a heart to heart chat over drinks about existentialist angst and wondering if there is a heaven or hell.

They were walking back to the dressing room after putting in a day in the cricket ground. You cannot just ambush people in the middle of their business and frighten them with eternal hell fires.

Dilshan obviously was more mature and magnanimous. He neither responded to Shehzad after that, nor did he file a formal complaint against the cricketer.

The tragedy of it all is that neither Shehzad, nor his team manager, Moin Khan seem to be showing any remorse. Khan, who has once been arrested for alleged spousal assault and battery, tried to downplay the enormity of this and said that it was just “general banter and nothing more and players do banter with each other from time and time.” Shehzad was no better and believed to have said that it was a personal chat and there was nothing more to it.

However, in a surprising show of responsible behaviour, PCB has set up a three-member committee to probe the incident and had already summoned Shehzad to their headquarters in Lahore.

The incident may not seem that attention worthy, but it was very uncouth and impolite.

Had that conversation, no matter how intrusive and insensitive it was, taken place in private without cameras and Shehzad not wearing Pakistani colors, it would have been a personal matter.

But he chose to do that on the cricket field, in front of cameras rolling while representing Team Pakistan. He should be disciplined for his religious fervour and his desire to be on a ‘mission’ while he is getting paid to do something else – that is, playing cricket to the best of his ability.

I do wonder what Shehzad was thinking, if he was thinking at all, when he approached Dilshan with his message.

Was he planning to secure a sports ministry in a TTP or ISIS-lead government in the future? If that ever comes to fruition, Shehzad must know that they would, in all likelihood, ban sports of all kinds.

Was he trying to secure a corner plot in Jannat by converting a non-Muslim brother and show him the righteous path?

Honestly, after this incident, the only person in need of enlightenment seems to be Shehzad, not Dilshan, who let the matter go quietly and with dignity.

To counter such incidents from happening in future, PCB must prepare a starter kit which has to list acceptable and objectionable conduct and it should detail that randomly telling people that their faith, or lack thereof, will make them burn in hell fires of eternity is never a good opener for polite conversation.

Secondly, they must limit access of influencers like Tariq Jameel and co. who constantly barrage or guilt young cricketers with additional responsibility of tableegh when they cannot even do what they are paid to do with a modicum of responsibility – play cricket.

Thirdly, they must set an example with Ahmed Shehzad and send out a message that preaching should be left to the likes of Tariq Jameel, Saeed Anwar or Aamir Liaquat, cricketers should concentrate on playing well for their country, especially when they are on tours as they are ambassadors of the country and behaviour such as that will not help them in winning people over.

It is about time Muslims in general and cricketers in particular let go of the notion that we, as Muslims, are the chosen one and it is our duty to bring others to the righteous path. Leave it for the professional evangelists and concentrate on doing what we can do well to earn our place in paradise.

 

First published in Dawn

Mar 26, 2014 - Celebrities, rant    No Comments

Hashtag conscious uncoupling

 

Last evening on my way back home, I overheard two very stylish girls in the subway discussing Gwenyth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s divorce. Celebrity gossip is something I am not interested in (unless someone is bitching about Angelina Jolie and as I am kind of a fan girl, I usually jump in to defend her, but I digress) so I could not muster enough enthusiasm to be really sad or outraged about it. All I did was wonder if Chris Martin would write some good songs inspired by divorce, loneliness, happiness (I would be happy if I don’t have to see Paltrow everyday) or hopes of finding new love. The other two very personable girls were outraged at the instability or fleetingness of the ephemeral emotion called love. Honestly, they were married for like ten years which is a really long time, I would not call that fleeting or ephemeral but I digress again.

Like any urban dweller with a smart phone, I updated my facebook status saying that the only thing I could care about is future song writing of Chris Martin and if it makes me a terrible person.

My friend AK, who lives in England and is probably more exposed to them commented with “I am more interested in what self-help crap she will write in Goop. I am guessing the next issue will carry posts like ‘How veganism and personalised napkins helped me cope with divorce’.”

Goop!

I googled that because I had no idea what goop was and boy, was I in for something or what. I realized that there was a reason why I’ve always hated Gwenyth and I kinda felt validated. Her divorce announcement on goop was titled ‘conscious uncoupling’ along with a 2k word thing interspersed with words like esoteric, self love, self forgiveness and wholeness by two doctors on conscious coupling. I think I barf a little in my mouth at that ‘oh so conscious pretentiousness’. Is there an uncoupling that is unconscious – unless you are divorced by your spouse in absentia or while you were comatose – most people go through the uncoupling process rather consciously and carefully, with paying lawyers fee and dividing their assets and children and dogs and whatnot! AK found it funny and thought it should be a hashtag.

I literally spent my evening going through random shit (mostly her journal) on goop. I mean I ate frozen pizza instead of cooking fresh food because it was so bad that I just could not get away and actually risked my health by this constant spike in my blood pressure. In one post she talked about hating London winters and how she wanted to be in California and in another she bitched about lack of culture in USA and how she longed to be back in Europe where people talk about art, history and culture. As someone who has actually lived in three European countries and has friends who are fairly intelligent and talk about philosophy just for kicks, this is pure bull crap. People in Europe, just like everywhere else in the world mostly talk about things like workplace woes, their mothers-in-law, Beyoncé, football (real football, not the North American version), cheap booze and where to get cheap booze and of course tinder dates. Yes, people talk about art, history and culture but then people do that in USA, China and every other goddamned country, it is NOT exclusive to Europe. (I would have been even more pissed had I been a European, I mean lumping all the countries in one big dump – as if Lithuanians, Hungarians, Italians and Dutch can be lumped together as one group of people). There are a million other such gems on goop, check them out at your own risk – or don’t if you value your sanity.

I have liked Coldplay most of the times but I am so judging Chris Martin now for sticking to THAT for ten long years. I would also judge Paltrow for naming her website goop but I won’t because it is so appropriate.

Goop!

Yikes!

Yikes indeed.

PS: Yes, I abused exclamation marks but hey, it is that kind of post. Judge me if you must, my twitter bio is very clear about my tendency to abuse punctuation marks.

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