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India-Pakistan match started with ‘taking the knee’, ended with ‘kufr toot gaya’: The link and the embedded irony

While the BLM activists rallied to outlaw words like "blacklist" that did not even have a racial genesis, one has to wonder how they forgot to rally against racist words like "Kafir" that, forget Hindus, their own Black brethren have suffered the consequences of.

On 24th October, the Indian cricket team created history and not the good kind – they lost their first World Cup match to Pakistan. A match that ended on a terrible note for India did not really start on a positive note either. The Indian Cricket Team and their management team went ‘woke’ and started the match by ‘taking the knee’.

After the death of George Floyd in the United States of America, it became commonplace for American sportsmen to ‘take the knee’ as a mark of protest against the state that they believe is inherently racist against the African American community. It all started with American footballer Colin Kaepernick who took the knee during the national anthem before a match in 2016. He said he could not stand to show pride in the flag of a country that oppressed black people.

Essentially, ‘taking the knee’ is a typically American thing that had nothing to do with Indians. Absolutely nothing. The move, needless to say, received widespread condemnation. A country that spearheaded the anti-racist movement in the ‘white man’s sport’ need not succumb to a movement that had nothing to do with India, to begin with.

Ironically, while the match started with the Indian team ‘taking the knee’, it ended with Pakistani commentator Bazir Khan celebrating Pakistan’s victory over India by saying ‘Kufr toot gaya’. Khan while interviewing the winning captain Babar Azam, in a post-match presentation ceremony remarked, “Lekin Kufr to toot gaya,” to which Azam replied, “All because of Allah.”

One would not need a soothsayer to prophecise the reaction of Indians who were fervently following the match. It sparked a breakaway conversation in India about Pakistanis considering the Indian team as “Kafirs” (non-believers) and celebrating a sporting victory over India as a religious victory over the non-believers. The notion was further fanned by Pakistan minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed celebrating the cricket victory as a ‘victory of Islam’ congratulating all Muslims across the world, including those in India.

The Indian cricket team and its management that blindly followed woke politics of the west and ‘took the knee’ against racism in the USA while losing a match to Pakistan were oblivious to the staggering irony of these two events put together – them kneeling and Pakistani commentator saying ‘Kufr toot gaya’.

Black Lives Matter and Lexicon control

First and foremost, it is important to note that ‘taking the knee’ is not something that started only after the death of George Floyd. In 1965, Martin Luther King Jr took the knee after a group of protesters were arrested during a march to the Dallas County Alabama courthouse. Around 250 people were arrested during the demonstration, which was part of a push to get African Americans in Selma registered to vote. Among those praying with King is Ralph Abernathy, a fellow minister and leader of the Civil Rights movement.

Martin Luther King Jr led a group of civil rights activists to take a knee in prayer after being arrested while campaigning for voting rights in 1965

Patently, therefore, the movement has paltry little to do with India. The racial tension in the USA between the blacks and whites has no parallel in India even though brown-sahibs like Professor Ashutosh Varshney would like to equate the Blacks in the USA with the Muslims in India. The religious tension in India has its roots in centuries of oppression by the Muslims of the indigenous Hindu population – from the Mughals killing and converting “Kafirs” by the sword to the modern-day religious crimes like Grooming Jihad, riots and widespread violence against Hindus being observed. In fact, one of the criticisms that accrued to the Indian Cricket Team was that they failed to show solidarity with crimes against humanity far closer to home, like Hindus being persecuted in Bangladesh, and chose to show a gesture that pertains to a fault line that finds no relevance in India.

While ‘kneeling’ is a phenomenon that African Americans have followed since the Civil Rights Movement to show inherent lack of respect for the anthem and the flag of the USA, another distinct feature of the current Black Lives Matter movement was Lexicon control that was not just advocated but even implemented in several aspects.

In June 2020, HBO had removed from its collection the classic 1939 movie “Gone with the wind’ because of its ‘racist undertones’.

In a statement, an HBO Max spokesperson had said, “’Gone With the Wind’ is a product of its time and depicts some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that have, unfortunately, been commonplace in American society… These racist depictions were wrong then and are wrong today, and we felt that to keep this title up without an explanation and a denouncement of those depictions would be irresponsible.”

Was Margaret Mitchell, who wrote this novel in the 1930s, being deliberately racist? Perhaps not. Was it written with the explicit intent to offend African Americans decades after it was released? Probably not. But the BLM activists insisted that the racist undertones of the movie offended those who had suffered the consequences of American slavery. Two weeks after the movie was pulled down, it made a comeback with appropriate historical disclaimers explaining the context of the scenes set in the early 1900s.

Besides movie scenes making an appearance with appropriate disclaimers, there was a movement of Lexicon control to outlaw or at least, disenfranchise the use of terms that could ‘appear’ racist, even though the origin of the word had no undertones of racism.

One such word that became the casualty of the Lexicon control movement was ‘blacklist’. The word “black” itself comes from old English usage of the word “Blaec” meaning absolute dark, absorbing all light or the colour of soot/coal. Therefore, without going into the details of how the word “blacklist” was used in the early 1600s, ‘blacklist’ was simply a list to signify something unreliable, dark, sinister etc.

The terms “blacklist” and “whitelist” are also used in programming code and they have not been replaced largely after the BLM movement. In programming speak, “master” refers to a device or process – such as a hard drive or a database – that controls other devices or processes, which are known as “slaves,” or replicas. “Blacklist” is used to describe items that are automatically denied, typically forbidden websites.

After the BLM movement gathered steam, Twitter removed several words from their programming lexicon to be more ‘inclusive’. Microsoft’s Github, Google Chrome, Android etc followed suit.

While it is pointless going into the genesis of each word, it is safe to conclude that even words that do not have a racist genesis were removed from lexicon because they could be construed as ‘racist’ – Blacklist and Whitelist for example.

Kafir, Kufr, alternate meanings, the Quranic meaning and the irony of it all

When Bazir Khan celebrated Pakistan’s victory over India by saying ‘Kufr toot gaya’, there were several individuals who proceeded to explain how “Kufr toot gaya’ was a poetic idiom and not ‘non-believer’ as defined in the Quran.

One Pakistani explained that the idiom only means that the obstacles have been removed.

Now, alternatively, the word “Kufr” could even mean that an Islamic unicorn will ride through the sky showering green colour and candies on newborn babies, however, that does not wash away the true meaning of the word “Kafir” and its violent connotations as mentioned in the Quran.

According to New Age Islam, an Islamic reformist organization, “The word Kufr means to reject faith in God, God’s signs, the prophets, the Holy Scriptures and the Day of Judgment. One who does not have faith in the unity of God and does not have faith also in other sacred signs of God is a Kafir, according to the Quran. One who rejects faith in God or does not have faith in God is called a Kafir. A Kafir may also be an idolater who worships gods and goddesses. According to the Quran, they are those who have gone astray. There are about 350 verses about Kufr and Kafir. In the majority of the verses, Kufr is non-belief in one God and prophets of God and in Holy Scriptures. Kufr is also the worship of idols and gods and goddesses other than God. In some of the verses, the word Kufr and its variations are used to mean ingratitude for the favours of God. It is natural that if someone does not recognize God or does not have faith in God, he will also not acknowledge God’s favours but will attribute the favours to his gods and goddesses.”

The words Kufr and Kafirun and Kafirin and their other variations are used for non-belief in Allah, the Holy Scriptures of Islam, its messengers and the Day of Judgment. These are variations of the word Kafir. New Age Islam also lists numerous quotes from the Quran so that readers can understand what the word Kafir and its variations mean. Here is a list of verses cited by the website:

5:86: But those who reject Faith (Kafaru) and belie our Signs, – they shall be companions of Hell-fire.

3:4: Then those who reject Faith (Kafaru) in the Signs of Allah will suffer the severest penalty,

9:3:  And an announcement from Allah and His Messenger, to the people (assembled) on the day of the Great Pilgrimage,- that Allah and His Messenger dissolve (treaty) obligations with the Pagans(Mushrikeen). If then, ye repent, it were best for you; but if ye turn away, know ye that ye cannot frustrate Allah. And proclaim a grievous penalty to those who reject Faith (Kafaru). (Mushrik and Kafir treated as same),

8:38: Say to the Unbelievers (Kafaru), if (now) they desist (from Unbelief), their past would be forgiven them; but if they persist, the punishment of those before them is already (a matter of warning for them).

8:52: (Deeds) after the manner of the people of Pharaoh and of those before them: They rejected (Kafaru) the Signs of Allah, and Allah punished them for their crimes:

41: 50: But We will show the Unbelievers (Kafaru) the truth of all that they did, and We shall give them the taste of a severe Penalty.

58: 4: For those who reject (Him) (Kafirin), there is a grievous Penalty.

58:5: And the Unbelievers (Kafirin) (will have) a humiliating Penalty,-

There are, of course, many more such verses that ask “believers” to unleash violence on the “Kafirs”.

One has to wonder after reading this, whether the alternate meaning of ‘Kufr toot gaya’ really matters. Is it not natural for people, especially indigenous people and polytheists to immediately connect the word “Kufr” to the violent meaning in the Quran, given that they have been persecuted time and again because the Muslims deemed them so throughout history?

In fact, let us keep Hindu sentiments aside for a moment. Let us forget for a moment that as our cricket team was showing solidarity by taking the knee, Hindus in Bangladesh were being killed and raped simply because they are “Kafirs” living in an Islamic nation.

The word Kafir has racial undertones even for the blacks.

According to the DSAE, the first recorded use of ‘Kafir’ applied to southern Africa (in the form ‘caffre’) appeared in Richard Hakluyt’s The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation, the first volume of which was published in 1589. G. Theal indicates that European settlers in South Africa adopted the word from its use by East African Muslims for ‘infidels’ in the southern part of Africa (quoted in DSAE: 347). Henry Lichtenstein writes in his Travels in Southern Africa, ‘[b]eing Mahommedans, they gave the general name of Cafer (Liar, Infidel) to all the inhabitants of the coasts of Southern Africa’ (1812: 241). A research paper on the racial undertones of the word “Kafir” for South Africans can be read here.

In 2016, when thieves (blacks) broke into the car of a white motorist, she hurled the “Kafir” slur against them, and that ignited a fierce debate in South Africa about a draft law that would propose jail time for racial slurs, including the word “Kafir”.

It is, therefore, ironic that the India-Pakistan match started with “taking the knee” and ended with a racial slur that Blacks have suffered through for centuries. It is frankly pointless asking why the Indian cricket team did not bother showing solidarity with Hindus who were being massacred in Bangladesh or the Hindus who die in India regularly simply because they are Hindus, but since the Indian cricket team felt the need to fight against the American flag, the American national anthem and the racism pandemic in the USA, how is it that the ‘wokes’ have failed to apply the same Lexicon control and change parameters to Muslims.

While the BLM activists rallied to outlaw words like “blacklist” that did not even have a racial genesis, one has to wonder how they forgot to rally against racist words like “Kafir” that, forget Hindus, their own Black brethren have suffered the consequences of.

As for the Indian team and their management, one can chart their woke activism to their monumental incomprehension and ignorance. Notwithstanding the actions of the dull-witted Indian cricket team and its management, the fundamental question remains – will the BLM activists, reformists and global Woke cabal now campaign to outlaw the word “Kafir”? And if they do, what happens to the Quran? How will they reconcile their pattern of shielding Islamists and fighting for the rights of the Blacks if they end up campaigning against the word Kafir? Or will they look away because the Islamist amalgamate is far more important than outlawing racial slurs that have been used to persecute Hindus and Blacks alike? These questions could very well be rhetorical since we know the innate hypocrisy of the Global Woke fraternity, but they must be asked nonetheless.

 

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Nupur J Sharma
Editor, OpIndia.com since October 2017

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