Thursday, August 10, 2006

Dean Jones and his terrorist joke...Is it racism?

A racism controversy has hit international cricket again.

When the Australian commentator Dean Jones labelled Hashim Amla, a coloured South African batsman and devout Muslim, a "terrorist" on air this week- well Jones did not know when he uttered the fateful word but he discovered later that while Sri Lankan viewers were watching ads, the cricket was still being viewed live in South Africa, where the comment was clearly heard.

Jones used the word in jest, but it wasn't taken the same way. Cricket South Africa immediately demanded an apology and they got it. Jones apologized profusely in verbal and written form to Amla, the South African team and Muslims in general for good measure, pointing out that some of his best friends are Pakistanis who are all Muslims.

Australia is a country that carries poignant reminders of how its early settlers treated the idigenous aboriginal population. Australia does have a troubled history with race relations. Sports are just a small part of society and racism in sports cannot be denied.

Many of us remember the falling from grace of the French caption Zinedine Zidane when he head-butted Marco Metarrazi of Italy who apparently called his mother , a “terrorist whore.” And, of course, there’s Mel Gibson for his anti-semitic remarks made in his drunken tirade.

All this goes to show how sensitive and serious race relations are. They should not be the subject of jokes. They should be taken seriously so as not to offend other people.

Dean Jones has asked for forgiveness. Amla’s father Mohamed said he would forgive Jones for his insensitive remark. “What he said is unfortunate but I think I will forgive him,” he told South African daily ‘The Mercury’.

Dean Jones has paid the price, he lost his tax-free $US2000 -a-day contract with his Dubai-based employer Ten Sports. He should be forgiven and this matter should be put to rest.

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