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.

  • L.

    Let me reiterate: shehzad should not have said what he did. But where did he threaten him? Recommend

  • I am a Khan

    I have had numerous discussions with preachers of other religions and when I asked them theological questions about God, they could not reply. when I told them about how Islam answered all the questions, they had no reply and quickly moved away!
    I always say that religion is not about me versus you or my religion versus your religion. its about God’s divine religion. The divine message- Islam. Islam belongs to all humans (muslims and non muslims) because we are God’s creation and Islam is God’s sent religion. So we should all ponder over it. two small points to think about: firstly Islam is the only religion that says people to worship only God and no one else. Other religions focus worship on other dieties like Jesus, Guru Nanak, Ram, Buddha, etc. Secondly Islam is the only religion that explicitly forbids alcohol consumption. We all know the harms of alcohol,Recommend

  • amoghavarsha.ii

    I oppose conversion willfully too!!!
    The reason is very simple, if you cannot find GOD with your Born religion, you will never find with a new one.
    If you happen to find GOD in other religion, then you will be living proof that GOD is not ONE / Single entity. And GOD is always Single/ONE and ONLY for all.

    Happy conversion/ Happy searching.Recommend

  • I am a khan

    One has to worship God. Then your actions determine your fate. Islam says worship the God, be righteous, follow the path shown by God and you will Attain Jannah (Paradise) In sha Allah.
    If you intend to travel from Delhi to Mumbai, but instead take a wrong path/road which goes to Chennai. No matter how smoothly and perfectly you drive, you are not going to reach mumbai, because you are on the wrong road. On the other hand if you take the right road to mumbai but drive rashly, you may meet an accident/vehicle breakdown and never reach mumbai despite being on the right path. So to reach mumbai you have to choose the right road and then drive safely. Same with paradise. Worship the God and be righteous in your actions. Just a little example. hope it helps.Recommend

  • Rakib

    That’s your view. Blog is about some other view. Per this cricketer, take any road, drive whichever way, break all laws, but so long as your car has the right number plate bearing correct Abjad numerals, passage to heaven is guaranteed.Recommend

  • Rakib

    In Buddhism there is conversion. In India now converts to Buddhism have to repudiate old religion. If old one was Hinduism than the convert has to take an oath never to worship Hindu gods or follow Hindu ways. In Hindu Arya Samaj there is Shuddhikaran that’s a method of converting though euphemism is used. But yes Hindus are not keen on converting others.Muslims & Christians do it rather aggressively. Recommend

  • Gp65

    I did not use the word threat. I said disrespect for the other person’s religion. Recommend

  • Gp65

    ET mods -3rd attempt. She said she is waiting for my answer. Please permit a reply.

    What you think in your own mind about your own religion or that of others is not disrespectful. However Shehzad was disrespectful when he said that Dilshan would be condemned to hellfire if he did not give up Buddhism and reconvert to Islam. While you have said that the playground was nt the right place for him to say it, you do generally endorse what he said which in itself was disrespectful.Recommend

  • Gp65

    this is your opinion. You are welcome to it. Please understand that others have a different view. Hindus and Sikhs at least believe in God even if they do not say the Kalima or believe it. Jains who are amongst the most gentle people I have ever met are atheists as are Buddhists.

    You must also realize that not all religions believe in heaven and hell. No one can prove or disprove the other’s beliefs nor is there any need to. It is enough that each person has a right to worship as they choose or ot worship if that is what they choose.

    ET someone has eritten to me – please allow a response.Recommend

  • Gp65

    To be fair to you, you NEVER said pitch was the right place. Not only that you actually criticized Shezad for doing it there.Recommend

  • Gp65

    you have a lt of poor information. Sikhs do not worship Guru Nanak. They respect him just like you respect prohet Mohammed. Buddhists are atheists and do not worship Gautam Buddha or anyone else. Hindus do not believe Lord Ram was a human or a prophet. They believe that God appears on earth whenever there is too much sin and Lord Ram was an intervention.

    Just because you believe Jesus to be a prophet does not mean the Christians think the same. They believe Christ is son of God.


  • Hamza Kamran

    or perhaps it was a private conversation between the two and you and me and that mike were not supposed to catch to it!Recommend

  • Hamza Kamran

    oh, this is a serious comparison error that you are committing dear.Recommend

  • Prashant

    Why are you so obsessed with sending all of us to heaven? By their logic, converting to Islam is only the first step in the path to paradise

    Why do not you take it easy and let others have their personal space.Recommend

  • Prashant

    “What he said is right but where he said is wrong”, Is this not what you said?

    Shehzad: If you do not convert to Islam

    I want to know, how can a statement like this cannot be an insult to someone who is not yet a convert to Islam, this might be true as for your beliefs but imagine the reaction of a man who is proud of his beliefs is being told this when he has not expressed any interest to know about your religion.

    I am not sure if the ET mods would post it.Recommend

  • jamor

    You must have listened to Zakir Naik.He gave the same answer The problem is that each one believes that his religion is true and the rest is false.Recommend

  • Saad

    Not double standards i am against the Shahzad’s comment as well. Being a Muslim we are taught to preach our religion in the most beautiful way and in appropriate conditions with the purpose of just conveying the true message. Obviously no one can ever force any one but just to convey the message in a good way is not bad at all. Afterwards he/she is free to accept or reject but giving bad comments is simply unbearable. So I strongly condemn against the Shahzad’s attitude towards dilshan. May be his intentions weren’t bad but his last comment spoiled everything. His way was very bad and he simply ” killed ” the actual purpose. But abhi please don’t say like that it will do nothing but will create hatred and enmity.
    Islam is not the light of burning fire.Recommend

  • ss22

    No, it because we have a life, job other things to do besides practicing our religion. Why don’t you let me tell you the path of hinduism?Recommend

  • Prashant

    ET mods have become a bit too sensitive it seems…Recommend

  • Prashant

    Most converts tend to be extreme in their thinking, shows the kind of people who are preaching around.Recommend

  • نائلہ

    Shehzad said: IF you convert to Islam, not ‘if you don’t’.

    No. I said Muslims ‘preaching’ or even educating another is no problem. But they should not be walking around telling ppl. Jews believe they are only ones going to heaven, so do the Christians. But no one goes around telling ppl. Dilshan replied ‘we’ll I don’t like heaven’ to which shehzad said what he did.

  • نائلہ

    No where is the right place if you don’t know the person at allRecommend

  • L.

    Watch the video again. Shehzad replied to Dilshans comment: ‘we’ll I don’t like heaven’ . He did not say you will go to hell because of Buddhism. He spoke in favour of Islam, he DID NOT even bring up another religion. Recommend

  • نائلہ

    Some other guy did; soz. Recommend

  • Prashant

    If you want to justify violating someones personal space and also mock his religious beliefs, you should be prepared to be at the receiving end and not shout slogans of “Wajib ul Qatal” as your opinion of yours being the only true path to the almighty is not shared by those who do not share your faith.Recommend

  • Jayman

    Do you know how many people who “privately” said something about a religion were roasted alive in Pakistan?Recommend

  • JayMankind

    People were killed for much lesser crimes in Pakistan – especially when it comes under the purview of religion.Recommend