Bowling the googly of identity politics

Nov 28, 2021 by

by Melanie Phillips:

People shouldn’t be shoehorned into categories which either damn or absolve them.

It’s a fair bet that Azeem Rafiq is ruing the day that he transfixed the nation by telling a parliamentary committee about the racism he had faced as a Yorkshire cricketer.

He produced shocking claims of racial abuse, dressing-room bullying and discriminatory policies that he said had been inflicted on him as a player with Yorkshire County Cricket Club. His evidence resulted in resignations and suspensions, with both Yorkshire and the ethos of cricket itself plunged into crisis and disgrace.

Two days afterwards, however, a ten year-old exchange between Rafiq and the Leicestershire professional cricketer Ateeq Javid came to light. In this, Rafiq referred to another Asian cricketer as “a Jew” because he was tight with his money. In a further comment, he joked that this person would “probs go after my 2nds again ha… Only jews do tht sort of sh**.”

Further information then came to light which led to claims that Rafiq had sent inappropriate sexual messages to a teenage girl and posted a meme on Instagram denigrating Africans.

Let’s park judgement for the moment on Rafiq himself. What was striking was the sharp difference in reaction to the claims of racism against him and odious behaviour by him.

His racism claims led to instant anathema being pronounced upon the cricketing personalities he named. Yet the revelation of his past antisemitism — for which he instantly and abjectly apologised to the Jewish community — produced no such reaction.

It was downplayed or even ignored. There were no explosions of outrage. The Labour MP Stella Creasy even praised “this poor young man” for his “powerful, clear and compelling” apology.

Generous-minded people will want to believe that Rafiq is genuinely sorry for his past anti-Jewish prejudice. But the Yorkshire cricketers weren’t given the benefit of the doubt for their own shows of contrition. They were hung out to dry, with speaking engagements and radio appearances cancelled.

So why the difference? People have pointed out the distressing fact that antisemitism isn’t treated as bigotry because so many actually believe the trope that the Jews are a conspiracy against the rest of the world.

However, that can’t be the whole explanation.

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