Who would have imagined that the sordid saga of ingrained racism in English cricket and its consequences would be laid bare before a select committee of the House of Commons in 2021? Very few non-white British women and men engaged in professional sport on any level would be surprised by the goings-on in Yorkshire. Much of what Azeem Rafiq revealed has been known in the cricketing world and its fringes for a long, long time. There’s no point pretending otherwise. The dressing room at the Yorkshire Cricket Club may have been particularly nasty, but let’s avoid the ‘bad apple’ theories so loved in this country and always used to justify corruption, sleaze, racist atrocities etc. Few other county clubs have a clean record. And the rot starts at the head.
That Narendra Modi would win again was never really in dispute. The only question was whether the Bharatiya Janata Party would be forced to seek coalition partners in the Lok Sabha, or repeat its astonishing success of 2014 and govern alone. The main opposition, the Congress, turned the campaign into a referendum on Modi. Could the tea-seller’s son, they asked, an untutored, uncouth, bigoted, small-town petit-bourgeois (who can’t even speak English) be trusted again? India’s electorate has now provided the answer. They love their Modi.
Adil Ahmad Dar, the 20-year-old Kashmiri suicide terrorist who killed himself along with forty Indian soldiers at Pulwama on 14 February, will be regarded as a hero and martyr by many Kashmiris of his generation, alienated, desperate and angered by the atrocities that have been rained down on them by the Indian military on the orders of successive governments (the Congress record is appalling) for many decades. Blinding young men in Kashmir with pellet guns is an Indian innovation. Had Dar acted alone, a few might even have dared call him a hero in public. Instead an oppressive silence reigns throughout Kashmir.
V.S. Naipaul never saw himself as just another face in the mural of 20th-century literature. The mural was, in any case, not his favourite art form. He loved and possessed a very fine collection of Persian and Indian miniatures. But this wasn’t a frame in which he saw himself either. Long before the knighthood and the Nobel Prize, it was the mirror that excited him. Destiny stared him in the face every morning. He believed in himself. The Trinidadian was to become a very fine writer of English prose.
Yet another manufactured crisis in Pakistan with a hard-line religious group at its core; the country’s political capital, Islamabad, cut off for over a fortnight from its twin military capital, Rawalpindi. The people laying siege are not too far from military GHQ. A whiff of grapeshot and they would have dispersed like rabbits. But the demonstrators were confident. The leaders were actually hoping for a few martyrs. The government did not oblige. Yesterday it capitulated in toto to the demands of the TLY, the Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (Movement to Obey the Prophet), a group set up two years ago in Karachi.
‘We live in a post-racial society,’ Obama enthused, referring to his own victory, soon after entering the White House. It sounded hollow at the time, though many wanted to believe it. Nobody does today. Not even Toni Morrison. But the response of tens of thousands of young US citizens to the recent outrages in Ferguson, Cleveland and New York is much more important and interesting than the vapours being emitted in DC.
A trip through the dark corridors and political galleries suggests that what we are witnessing in Pakistan today – street demos in Lahore and Islamabad, attempts to seize the prime minister’s house, a token occupation of the state television building – is little more than a crude struggle for power between the incumbents (the two stooges otherwise known as the Sharif brothers) and a segment of the opposition led by Imran Khan and the forces unleashed by the Canadian-based ‘moderate’ Islamist cleric Tahirul Qadri, who controls a large network of madrassahs that were supported by the Sharifs and many others. Mohammad Sarwar, for instance, the governor of Punjab (a millionaire chum of Blair and Brown and former New Labour MP from Glasgow), joined Qadri’s procession, presumably to demonstrate his faith.
Stupidity knows no bounds, especially when fuelled by narcissism and a tongue laced with demagogy. There is no other way to describe George Galloway’s absurd and offensive suggestion that Bradford should impose a total ban on Israeli tourists. Statistically it would be interesting to see how many tourists from any country visit Bradford (even after Galloway’s election as the Respect MP, an election that some of us welcomed at the time).
The United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, denounced the bombing of the UN school in Gaza as ‘outrageous’ and ‘unjustifiable’. His officials have described the massacres as a ‘disgrace to the world’. Who stands disgraced? The UN General Assembly has regularly voted in favour of an independent Palestine. It is the Security Council that has vetoed the very thought and the Security Council, as everyone knows, is dominated by the United States; on this issue, Russia and China have remained on message.
On Wednesday I received four calls from the BBC's Good Morning Wales. First morning call: was I available to be interviewed about Gaza tomorrow morning? I said yes. First afternoon call: could I tell them what I would say? I said (a) Israel was a rogue state, pampered and cosseted by the US and its vassals. (b) Targeting and killing Palestinian children (especially boys) and blaming the victims was an old Israeli custom. (c) The BBC coverage of Palestine was appalling and if they didn't cut me off I would explain how and why. Second afternoon call: was I prepared to debate a pro-Israeli? I said yes. Afternoon message left on my phone: terribly sorry. There's been a motorway crash in Wales, so we've decided to drop your item.