Preaching Islam on the pitch

Published: September 6, 2014

What is most troubling about the incident is that it hasn’t seemed to result in any trouble for Shehzad, who is clearly unfazed by the entire episode. PHOTO: AFP

What was Ahmed Shehzad thinking? One blogger in Pakistan quipped perhaps the cricketer was trying to secure the sports ministry in a future Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)-led government. But retorts aside, what is most troubling about the incident is that it hasn’t seemed to result in any trouble for Shehzad, who is clearly unfazed by the entire episode.

Coupled with Tillakaratne Dilshan’s casual response and his decision to remain silent over Shehzad’s completely needless evangelism, Shehzad may easily get away for what he shouldn’t. Whether the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) will choose to impose any sort of penalty on the cricketer is another matter, but Shehzad’s lack of remorse will send out the wrong message to other Pakistani cricketers: preaching on the pitch is kosher.

According to Shehzad, it was a “personal chat” with “nothing more to it”. That he chose to have this ‘personal’ exchange with Dilshan in front of a multitude of cameras and while still on the ground says something about his ability to gauge appropriate settings. And the Sri Lankan cricket authorities’ non-existent reaction will only serve to feed this delusion of the right-handed batsman. One can only imagine what the reaction of the Pakistan Cricket Board would have been had a Sri Lankan cricketer tried to convert a Pakistani cricketer to Buddhism or Christianity. It would not be far-fetched to speculate riots on the streets, demands for expulsion of the guilty cricketer and torrid swipes from the authorities and fans alike.

Team manager and former captain, Moin Khan, was of the view that Shehzad’s loose-lipped slip was “general banter”. However, unlike the banter that cricketers often resort to, even when girdled with cameras, Shehzad’s comments came after Pakistan had already lost; serving no purpose to unsettle an opponent in a bid to make him act rashly and make a mistake in the process. Instead, Dilshan’s cool demeanour only went to further rile up Shehzad. Though it is not clear what Dilshan said in response to Shehzad’s ‘invitation’ to embrace Islam, the latter’s remark of bracing for hell’s fire shows either his desperation at trying to save face or an attempt to counter a polite snub with an impolite affront.

Photo: ESPNcricinfo

Fortunately, it will be difficult for Shehzad to forget the incident whether PCB, which has launched an inquiry, chooses to penalise him or not. The footage has already gone viral and newspapers have not shied away from reporting the incident. More importantly, the view on social media seems unanimous: Shehzad’s antics were uncalled for. This reflects the general perception of viewers that sportsmen should be secular on the field. Racial, religious or ethnic misgivings on the pitch fuel intolerance and promote bigotry.

In any case, it is befitting that the International Cricket Council (ICC) has chosen not to act arbitrarily, since Dilshan or Sri Lankan authorities have not yet filed a formal complaint and are unlikely to do so. Had the ICC erupted into action, some sympathetic quarters would have attempted to legitimise Shehzad’s remarks. The silence, instead, will put the onus on the PCB to ensure its players maintain protocol. Otherwise, as we all know, loose lips sink ships.

Ali Haider Habib

Ali Haider Habib

A senior sub-editor on the National desk at The Express Tribune who tweets @haiderhabib (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • BlackJack

    More troubling than the impromptu evangelism by a professional sportsperson is the belief system that makes him think that anything goes if you are part of the ‘right’ creed, and everyone else is going to burn in hell. It is this belief that causes beheadings and bombings and the feeds the intolerance that abounds in so many countries – it’s just that the definition of ‘right’ changes based on interpretation. Until you question this belief in public, nothing is going to change.Recommend

  • L.

    Dilshan replied: “well I don’t like heaven”. To which shehzad said: “then be ready for the hell fire.”

    Anyways, it was extremely silly of shehzad to say such thing. What probed him though was finding out the fact that Dilshan in his teenage years converted from Islam to Buddhism. Shehzads intentions may have been good, but this was not the place or opportunity to say such thing, especially not when he is from another team. Don’t PCB have anyone who tells the players what’s right and what’s wrong? Let’s just hope he learnt his lesson. Recommend

  • JayMankind

    A cheap and shameful thing to do! Typical uneducated mindset. Imagine if Dilshan had advised Shehzad to convert to Buddhism !! All hell and fatwas would have broken loose.Recommend

  • James

    If this is the case with a foreign cricket player, then just think about all the Hindus and Christians living in Pakistan and how much they have to hear this invitation on a daily basis from the people of “Land of Pure.” I just wonder what would have happened with Danesh Kaneria when he was playing for Pakistan……Recommend

  • Aziz Ihsan

    This shows the normal behavior of Pakistanis in general giving unsolicited advice on everything which crawls on the face of this green earth.Recommend

  • Prashant

    “Shehzads intentions may have been good, but this was not the place or opportunity to say such thing, especially not when he is from another team. ”

    Let us assume Dilshan was off the field, would it still give anyone the right to approach him and ask him to convert back. Dilshan was not after all attending a preaching ceremony. There is no place to preach religion unless a person shows inclination towards knowing another religion.

    “What probed him though was finding out the fact that Dilshan in his teenage years converted from Islam to Buddhism.”

    What is wrong in it if Dilshan indeed converted, many among Non Muslims have converted to Islam, would that give me the right to approach them in a public place and ask them to convert back.

    I do not understand by what you mean by “Good Intention.” This is sheer intolerance for me.

    An act which needs to evoke disgust cannot be justified by veiled justification and appreciation.

    I hope this gets through ET mods without being edited.Recommend

  • Moiz Omar

    He should be fined heavily and maybe suspended for a while. He should not have done what he did.Recommend

  • malik

    I think Shehzad only artifculated what millions of Pakistanis believe. I am sure many will be defending him.

    His main point was that, as a Muslim, you can do whatever you want and you can get away with it. Also, all non-muslims are lesser human beings.

    More than weapons, this is THE most dangerous idea ever.Recommend

  • Sami

    Islam is the most beautiful religion in the world. It is a shining light in the dark sky!Recommend

  • siesmann

    The positive aspect of all this is showing the world that Buddhism is the religion of peace,and Buddhists ,as shown by the gentlemanly behaviour of Dilshan,are the most peaceful people on earth.That is why many people in the West self-convert themselves into Buddhism ,without being preached to convert.Buddhism is for making “Heaven” on earth,and in the present.One never hears a Buddhist boasting about the superiority of his Faith as people of other “religions” do.And they don’t need to because their faith speaks for itself.Service to mankind is for a Buddhist an end in itself,without aspiring ,or even thinking ,for any recompense in this world or any other worlds.Recommend

  • zain

    i work in a multinational where many Christians men and women are working. They preach Christianity sometimes directly sometimes indirectly and its pretty normal thing for me and other Muslims working with me .
    i don’t know why people are making issue of a trivial personal matterRecommend

  • Jor El

    That is a matter of opinion …Recommend

  • Prashant

    What does that have to do with the topic in discussion?Recommend

  • Raj – USA

    Ali Haider Habib (the author):

    You start your blog with:

    “What was Ahmed Shehzad thinking? One blogger in Pakistan quipped perhaps the cricketer was trying to secure the sports ministry in a future Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)-led government. ”

    You are totally wrong. This is the reason Ahmed Shahzad says: “if you are a non-Muslim and you turn Muslim, no matter whatever you do in your life, straight to heaven”.

    I do appreciate the author for writing this blog that shows his good intentions. Recommend

  • someone

    How could his intentions be good? He clearly said if you don’t convert to Islam then you would end up in hell. Recommend

  • BlackJack

    ‘Shehzad’s intentions may have been good’. Another symptom – where one person threaten’s another but his actions are attributed to noble intentions. PCB code says mind your own business, That is all that is required,Recommend

  • amogavarsha.ii

    waiting for australia series with Islamic pakistanRecommend

  • arsha

    where are the good intentions? – offending someone’s religious choice? telling them they would burn… for what?Recommend

  • Sallu

    An embarrassment to our country – he needs to be fined Recommend

  • nishantsirohi123

    Typical attitude.
    look at non Muslims with inferioriority as if they are on the most right path, and throwing a pity like “oh you misguided soul, there’s still time”

    Stop wearing religion on the sleeve for once, mind your own business and let the others mind their own,
    Do you really need to bring religion onto everything,Recommend

  • abhi

    I don’t know what is the surprise here. Yusuf Yohana was converted using same tactics. Hashim Amla has also been involved in such evangalism. old habits die hard.Recommend

  • Hamza Kamran

    i am not taking anyone’s side but please notice that neither ICC nor Sri Lanka’s authorities nor Dilshan even, complained. Those who are related are not concerned. Why should you interpret it differently? Recommend

  • Gratgy

    The opium of religion has clouded his mind, Recommend

  • Atheist

    desert barbarian culture. Recommend

  • ak

    ok..please light that light in the skies of Syria, Iran, Iraq, Arabia, Lebanon and other such Muslim countries..Recommend

  • mimi sur

    Now it is clear that there is no fault with these guys . Fault lies in the religion of Islam . Some one has rightly said “Islam to man is rabies to dogs” .Recommend

  • Sid

    So when Pakistani cricketer lost talent for cricket they decided to become pitch imam…cool :pRecommend

  • L.
  • نائلہ

    As a Muslim, your intention to bring another to Islam peacefully is good. We know what we have been blessed with and it’s selfish to keep it to yourself. No one is forcing anyone, but it is our duty as Muslims to spread the message of Islam. Note I said “spreading the message” and not forcing them to convert. Shehzad, though, should not have taken that step with Dilshan.Recommend

  • نائلہ

    He was trying to save him from the hellfire! That is a selfless act. If you don’t know what Muslims believe, kindly google.- obvs using a verified sourceRecommend

  • siesmann

    I know you are an Ahmadi,and even if you persist in denying ,life for Ahmadis has been made a hell in .Not fault of Islam itself.After all Ahmadis are Muslims by heart,and are living peacefully even in the face of rampant discrimination,and persistently under the threat of death.Recommend

  • نائلہ

    Threatens? LOL. Did shehzad say: if you don’t convert, I will burn you in the hellfire? You and your silly comments. Recommend

  • siesmann

    The difference is that you don’t see the difference ,or are deliberately feigning ignorance.Recommend

  • abhi

    frankly speaking, I too worked in many multinational companies with Christians but this never happened.Recommend

  • abhi

    Light is of burning fire actually.Recommend

  • abhi

    this is hight of stupidity. I have one story for you. hope it is published.
    There was a barber, one night while he was fetching the blade from a shelf the blade slipped out of shelf and fell. Unfortunately the blade fell on his nose and his nose chopped off. Next day his neighbour spotted him with cut nose and asked what happened. The barber told him that it is a secret. After neighbor kept on asking he told this. Yesterday I heard a devine message that if you cut your nose you will see the God, so I cut my nose and I could see the God. I am very blessed now and cutting the nose is just a small price to pay. The neighbor got very exited and beggeg the barber to cut his nose too. Barber obliged. THe neighbor still couldn’t see th God. So he asked the barder where is the God? Barber said, if you don’t want to be mocked for your nose go along with this story.Recommend

  • mazhar

    Preaching Islam is obligatory for every Muslim but we have to see how we are doing it. As a Muslim if you see the opportunity somewhere you should go for it with patience and kindness, but if someone is not in the mood to listen you should stop in the track.

    Also It should be a very sacred thing and there are ways and means to do everything and should not be taken lightly and loosely like Ahmed shahzad took it on the field. He behaved like a teenager. And PCB should look into it.Recommend

  • Prashant

    I would be offended if a person whom I consider a friend of mine asks me to convert to his faith as I do not make friends to learn religion. That is making friends with people while having contempt for their faith. If I want to know another religion, I would know it on my own and would simply ask my friend to shut his mouth and the friendship ends right there for crossing the limits.Recommend

  • Prashant

    Gosh, I cannot believe this Naila. How can you have such contempt for others faith?

    Why do not you simply understand that the people of other faiths are not Non Muslims by compulsion but by choice, they were born so and they are proud to remain so.

    Dilshan converted from Islam to Buddhism and hence I would expect people to respect his choice just like you would want to respect the choice of the people who turn to Islam.

    Finally, if this is the opinion of a liberal among Muslims towards non Muslims, I do not see a great future for co-existence.Recommend

  • Prashant

    Parvez, read some comments on this blog and you would be dumbstruck as you seem to be in a minority, not the usual minority but a minority among the very small minority.Recommend

  • Prashant

    Where does this stop Naila?

    People would be afraid to make friends with a person for the fact that either he/she does not respect their faith or does not mind invading their personal space.

    I had a friend from across the border on FB who was a very nice person but the friendship ended for the same reasons as I mentioned above.Recommend

  • Prashant

    Preaching religion on a cricket field is not personal. I have not seen Christians asking others to convert either unless he was a preacher.

    btw, how do you react or how would you react when you are approached by a Christian to convert to their faith, would you politely say no or would you try to convert them to your religion?Recommend

  • Prashant

    “He behaved like a teenager.”

    So teenagers are allowed to do this? Is this what you teach a teenager?

    He did not behave like a teenager but a fanatic.Recommend

  • Hx

    What did you seriously tried to say here in the article…!!! ?
    I seriously couldn’t get the whole of your point … and the titles is really kinda misguiding and something like mismatching.Recommend

  • نائلہ

    NO ONE is converting anyone. What are you talking about ?! Recommend

  • Saad

    abhi kindly keep your hatred to yourself and better not to express your fire because your comment is worst among all.Recommend

  • L.

    From a Muslims perspective, bringing others to Islam is correct, and forget Dilshan, but if ANY one else was spoken to about the faith, it is NOT a big deal. Such over reaction! He told him what he believed and that’s it. He did not but a gun on his head and force him. -.- Recommend

  • نائلہ

    Idk what me being an Ahmadi has to do with anything though. Recommend

  • L.

    And? For the last time: it is NOT wrong to tell someone your beliefs. No one is forcing anyone to convert or ‘threatening’ them. Recommend

  • L.

    Wrong comparison, genius.

    There is NO compulsion in religion; shehzad told Dilshan the truth, no sugar coat, nothing. Obviously a very bad move. Recommend

  • vasan

    Thank you, I get your sarcasmRecommend

  • I am a Khan

    That only shows your own bigotry and lack of tolerance to hear the other’s viewpoint!Recommend

  • I am a Khan

    This story only provides artificial relief to those who are deep down disturbed at their wrong choice of religious path!Recommend

  • I am a Khan

    He was trying so save Dilshan from fire and you are saying his intentions were not good?Recommend

  • I am a Khan

    How about you consider this viewpoint- Christians, Hindus and all other people apart from Muslims are not zealous enough to preach their religion because they are not sure if it is right or not. Clearly there is no harm in telling anyone about Islam and the path to paradise, without any compulsion.Recommend

  • L.

    Exactly, talking should be no issue.Recommend

  • Prashant

    Asking a person to turn to Islam to avoid hell fire in my opinion is asking a person to convert. I have no issues with that but why would a cricketer do that on the field and why do some believe that is a religious obligation of every Muslim to save people of other community from hell fire. You might think you are being generous in doing so but for those who do not follow your faith, it would be construed as intimidating.Recommend

  • I am a Khan

    Tell that to the buddhist monks of myanmar who have barbarically wiped out entire populations of the innocent muslims.Recommend

  • Raj – USA

    If you have to preach Islam, you should do it by setting yourself as an example that would motivate others to convert. Recommend

  • Prashant

    “it is NOT wrong to tell someone your beliefs. ”

    Of course not, I agree with you on that but telling someone of your beliefs in the hope that you will have that person converted when you are not asked about it is nothing but hatred for others.

    “No one is forcing anyone to convert or ‘threatening’ them.”

    I have no issues if a person or a number of people from my community convert to Islam, the issue is giving advise when you are not asked and telling me that I would end up in hell for being a non Muslim is something which you might believe in but how do you expect a Non Muslim to buy that. Your beliefs are right and the beliefs of the rest are going to lead them to hell is a thought process which is going to create much hatred in the society.Recommend

  • Prashant

    Truth to you and him, not to me and many others. You do not mind insulting others faith but expect the entire world to stand up for you when your faith is questioned.

    Nothing fits better for Hypocrisy than this.Recommend

  • Xyz

    No it’s not wrong to tell anyone your beliefs as long as that information is actively solicited. Most people don’t want other religions being pushed on them. Recommend

  • Arsha

    Your supposed truth would be a terrible insult to many many others. Please try to ponder upon that. At least try to learn to respect other religions…. It will make your own society a better and more respected place. I am amazed that people can’t even offer others a basic level of respect and are totally insensitive and blind to feelings of people outside their own community.Recommend

  • Xyz

    Buddy don’t know where u work. I have worked in MNCs all my life and in most mnc’s especially western companies religion is a taboo topic for discussion in the corporate environment.Recommend

  • Sid

    Oh yeah ? tell that to Ahmad Shehzad :)Recommend

  • Gp65

    sorry, it is okay for Shahzad to tell Dilshan. That is not hatred by a professional cricketer representing his country. But someone saying something similar in a blog comment is spouting hatred?

    Double standards much?Recommend

  • Gp65

    It is not bigotry to reject unsolicited lectures on other people’s religions. It is bigotry to impose your religion on thers without them requesting tha information.

    Are you willing to sit through a lecture on Bhagvat Geeta? If not why do you think we are any more interested in finding out aout your religion?Recommend

  • Gp65

    Shehza WAS trying to convert Dilshan and you described that as good intention. Now you are saying no one was trying o convert anyone?Recommend

  • Gp65

    It is okay to share your beliefs if the other person is interested. Otherwise imposing ourself on others and showing disrespect for their beliefs by assuming that your beliefs are superior.

    ET mods – there is a fundamental issue here eith someone forcefully justifying an imposition of their faith on others. Please allow rebuttalRecommend

  • Gp65

    You are entitled to believe that your religion is the best and that thoe who do not follow it will go to hellfire. When you express such beliefs to the other person (who may believe his/ her religion is the best) then you are showing disrespect for that person and their belief.

    It is thus best to keep your beliefs to ourself and not show disrespect for others’ beliefs. Lord knows if you even suspect someone has disrespected your beliefs you accuse them of blasphemy which is punishable by death. Why do you think that others should respect your belefs and you can get away with showing disrespect for their beliefs?Recommend

  • Gp65

    I work for a multinational in US and an HR person was inviting people of other faith to a gospel session after work. People complained. The man was given warning and he continued so he was sacked. Organizations I have worked for take respect for diversity very seriously and there is ZERO tolerance for prople imposing their religious views on others and impying that others are less than.Recommend

  • Gp65

    There is nothing silly aout the comment. scream blasphemy if they feel someone showed disrespect for their religion but feel it is okay if they show disrespect for other people’s religion Recommend

  • tahir

    My god. I’m sure the faction going ballistic over this would have defended the cricketer vehemently had he offered the sri-lankan his hip flask and the conservative right had created a ruckus over it. Although physically one, ideologically Pakistan is very evidently now two countries — the secular Pakistan and the Islamic Pakistan. The atheists, liberals, leftists and the pro-westerns of the former want Islam either thrown out of the legislature, education and all social constructs or molded to fit the new world order. They are the squatters and self appointed vigilantes of cyberspace and airways and as such have come to be the vocal/visual/textual majority that harasses and belittles the fundamentalists of the conservative Pakistan at will.This is one instance of that.Recommend

  • Anoop

    Is this view rooted in reality?
    Look at the nations India and Pakistan, one HIndu majority and another Muslim. Look at the other 56 Muslim majority countries, they all have the same exact problems.Recommend

  • Anoop

    What is happening in more than a dozen countries around the world?
    His comment is acurate.Recommend

  • Anoop

    There is no proof of hell or heaven. There are dozens of Religions around the world and not can be true. And, there is no concrete proof none of them are.
    The question for me here is about not invading someone else’s personal space, but being rational and irrational!
    When one believes in such things with such strong blind obeidience, the line between him and a Terrorist is a very thin one.Recommend

  • Anoop

    YES! The reason for the turmoil in the Muslim world.
    If I’d said the same thing, the comment wouldn’t have passed the ET censors and I’d be innundated and accused of spreading Islamophobia.
    I think I should adopt a Muslim sounding pseudonym.Recommend

  • Mehdi


    you are defending shehzad’s stance. Pitch is not place to prolestyze people. Recommend

  • abhi

    Yes, I know who you are talking about.Recommend

  • dhondu

    hellfire , heaven seriously?? lolRecommend

  • نائلہ

    Accusing someone of threatening another to convert when they did not do that, is not silly?

    And when did I show disrespect? I will be waiting for your answer. Recommend

  • نائلہ

    Who imposed their beliefs on who?! Read my comment you replied to again. Recommend

  • نائلہ

    He was giving his opinion- Not making him read the shahada! Recommend

  • نائلہ

    I don’t respect other faiths?! Lady, are you claiming to know me?

    I have no problems with what others believe and I never have nor will question anyone on there’s. And what I believe in my head- ie my version of the truth, should not have ANY insulting effect of people of other faiths. Recommend

  • نائلہ

    Believe what you want and let me believe what I do. Recommend

  • نائلہ

    YOUR opinion, correct for once!

    And when did I support shehzad for saying such thing to Dilshan? Recommend

  • L.

    Wait a sec, I have no right to say who and who won’t go to hell. Who am I to decide? Allah is the ultimate judge and shehzad should not have been vocal about it.

    Countless of you people regularly question the existence of God to me- which btw is the basis of my religion. I don’t get offended!Recommend

  • I am a Khan

    I would not mind a lecture on Gita, and then explain to you about Islam. Its not about my religion is better than yours. Its about let us all find out the real divine religion and all follow that. Dr Zakir Naik quotes from hindu scriptures. But being allergic to even listening about Islam and the divine message, is bigotry.Recommend

  • Gp65

    he was going beyond giving his opinion – which in any case was not solicited. He was saying that Dilshan will. Burn in hellfire if he continies witn his own religion. This is going much further than iving an opinion. This is showing Disrespect for other people’s religion.Recommend

  • Zain Ul Abadin

    love you ahmad shahzadRecommend

  • Gp65

    Hindus believe in Karma. It means your actions (karma) good or bad will determine your fate (good or bad). It does not say that worshipping a particular deity and in a prescribed manner will ensure heaven no matter how evil the behavior, nor does it say that failure to do so will result in someone burning in hellfire. Thus we do not see any reason to convert anyone to worship the way we do.Recommend

  • DilipPatel

    The Moguls tried to convert non-muslims for 10 centuries and did not succeed. Even though the rulers were “zealous enough” they failed. That says a lot. In Buddism and Hinduism there is no process for conversion. Everyone is born equal. One does not have to convert.Recommend

  • Prashant

    That is the problem Mr Khan, you want others to believe your belief of you being sure of your path and want the others to believe your belief of us not being sure of our path.

    It is you who is giving unsolicited advise to others and not the other way around. Just to add, I have no issues people of any community preaching or converting to another faith but I wonder why I should be preached when I have expressed no interest.Recommend

  • Prashant


  • Prashant

    Preach them when they want to be preached. People go to Zakir Naik to be preached and not the other way around. btw how many times have you been to preachers to learn about other religions?Recommend

  • Parvez

    Being in the minority is fine……especially when you realize that the majority are badly misguided.Recommend

  • nil

    If someone got killed and no one complain it, authority take their own action.Recommend

  • نائلہ

    Tell me where I said that it is? Recommend

  • Jayman

    When you transgress etiquette or the law there is no need for a complainant. It was clearly heard on the mike. A transgression is a transgression. Let Shehzad play in overseas grounds from now on, and see the reception he gets. It was Dilshan’s decency that he did not lodge a complaint. That does not mean that the act should be spared.Recommend

  • Prashant