• Stop racism please!

If Adam and Eve had been Chinese they would have eaten the snake rather than let it live to plague their descendants. Imagine, if you can: no Hitler, no Robespierre, no Henry the VIII, no general at the helm of affairs in Pakistan for eleven ghastly years, and in the United States there’d be no…you got it.

Also had Satan met that fate, the Pakistan cricket captain would not have been tempted to say what he did at the One Day International against South Africa last Tuesday. This may seem to be overreaching it a bit, and one certainly does not mean to stick Sarfaraz in the company of the likes of Hitler and the general with peaked eyebrows, but it does refer to what lies behind what he said. Because what Sarfaraz said – he almost definitely does not realise it — was only the visible, or rather the audible fragment of an infinitely much greater malaise.

Sarfaraz may not have said what he said directly to Phehlukwayo, but he said it aloud. Being couched in Urdu his words were loud enough to be heard by his teammates and countrymen who, as per Sarfaraz’s experience, would have found these sentiments funny, and snickered along with him. Sarfaraz, as representative of Pakistan, as the captain of Pakistan’s team, should give his responsibilities conscious consideration and not with as little thought as tying his shoelaces or flicking off a mosquito. He has shamed the country, and in the eyes of his young fans given racism the stamp of approval. Because what Sarfaraz said was racist, there is no two ways about it. He ought not to be let off the hook by giggling PCB officials pretending to be stern. Instead, the hero of so many young cricket lovers ought to be seen to be reprimanded seriously, even though his mental processes are also the fault of the attitude of the country in which he was raised.

Racism is more than alive in Pakistan, it is thriving, institutionalised and even encouraged.

Racism is what destroyed Asiya bibi’s life, what took Shama and Shahzad to their gruesome death, what led to the death of some six million Jews during the Holocaust. What could be more satanic?

What Sarfaraz said should not be treated as ‘mere’ words, or one stands in danger of trivialising the contributions of people who used their thoughts couched in the most effective language to influence the thinking of entire generations, people such as Faiz, Nazrul Islam, Ramakhrishnan, Walt Whitman, Fahmida Riaz, Plato, Marx, and Manto. We stand in danger of treating their writings as ‘mere’ words.  As Oscar Wilde said, “Men are the slave of words,” and also that “Language is the parent, not the child of thought.” He meant that words are important, and they influence the way we think.

In his striking talk on the subject of genocide Stephen Fry points out that all genocides in recent history had one thing in common: “each example was preceded by language (words) being used again and again and again to dehumanise the person that had to be killed”

As we condemn Donald Trump’s racist language, we should also condemn it when we hear for example Imran Khan’s comments made a couple of years ago on “so called foreign players,” who he said were “picked up from Africa or wherever” and called “foreign players.” The current PM of Pakistan was then speaking of the international players who were picked to play the International Super League final in Lahore in 2017.

In his striking talk on the subject of genocide Stephen Fry points out that all genocides in recent history had one thing in common: “each example was preceded by language (words) being used again and again and again to dehumanise the person that had to be killed.” So, the Nazis, knowing that not all Germans would support the wholesale slaughter of Jews started calling Jews ‘apemen’, ‘rats’ and ‘vermin.’ Is that not similar to when people from East Pakistan were called ‘bhookay Bangali’ or worse in the lead up to 1971? Remember the genocide at that time? Compare it to Donald Trumps remark about ‘shithole countries,’ when speaking of immigrants to the United States.

In the light of such examples, how funny does anyone find Sarfaraz’s words? Of course black Africans themselves call themselves ‘black’, and black is no longer a derogatory word in Africa and in the West, but it is definitely derogatory in Pakistan, let’s make no bones about that.

All cricket captains, past and present, all public figures, all those with a following should face the consequences when they use words in such a way. Pakistan needs to know that kala (black), langra (unable to walk), mota (overweight) are not to be used in lieu of abuse, that in itself these are not words of abuse, but are made so by contemptible minds. We need to understand that racism is wrong. It is cruel, condemned by all religions, and by all persons with any respect for humanity.

By the way, the simplified Chinese word for Satan, is Sā dàn. And ‘please eat’ is: Qĭng chì. I’m not sure at all sure if ‘Qĭng chì Sā dàn’ is the right way to say ‘please eat Satan’, its straight from Google translate, but for the purpose of this column right now it is meant to say, rather indirectly, please stop racism.