Monday, April 30, 2007

It's all beginning to make sense (re Bob Woolmer)

It never did fully make sense - Bob Woolmer's death that is - by means most foul.

When hints first emerged of match-fixing, one could be forgiven for leaping to conclusions and thinking "Is that how a top-notch team like Pakistan came to be knocked out by the likes of Ireland ? "

And what of Woolmer's role himself. Just an innocent bystander one hoped who, suddenly finding was happening right under his nose, threatened to blow the whistle ?

But the manner of his death just seemed so - how can one put it - degrading and contemptible ? One need hardly say that all murder fits that description, but for a leading figure in the world of sport to die by strangling seemed like an attempt not just to kill, but to humiliate.

How can a grown and presumably fit man be strangled ? Surely he had the strength to resist ? Or show signs of having put up a struggle ?

But then reports emerged that he was poisoned first, to render weak or unconscious, with the police hinting they knew which substance was used, but were releasing no details, except to say that the choice was a clue to the identity of Woolmer's killer(s).

The plot, as they say, thickens, but this no longer seemed like an ordinary crime involving mere money. There was another ingredient involving violent passions. But what could they be, in the world of cricket ?

This morning we learn that BBC Panorama has uncovered what now seems depressingly credible - the fundamentalist I factor. See link to Telegraph article.

There's just no escaping it, is there, even in the world of international sport ?

Several members of the team were not just devout Muslims - which, let me hasten to add, is not an issue - but belonged to an extreme sect. Firstly we are told, it was interfering with play, as individuals left the field for prayers, needing to be replaced by substitutes.

But what's so unusual about that, one might say ? Muslims taxi drivers are known to stop for devotions without being branded as dangerous fanatics, even if infuriating for their passengers.

Nothing perhaps, except it gets worse, much worse. The Pakistan team's former media manager, a Mr.P.J. Mir claims that a fatwa was placed on his head . That followed his condemning those players who, in his opinion, had allowed this particular sect to undermine their will to win, as a result of which he has had to flee Pakistan .

To reiterate the title: it's all beginning to make sense. Are we seeing yet again the sinister and tragic consequences of what happens when extremists hijack a religion and turn it into a weapon of hate?

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