Tamim Iqbal, country’s ace test and one day opening batsman, has been in the news for last few days, not for hitting a big knock or getting out for a duck in some important international match but for pulling out of a short cricket career in England and returning back home. He put the reason as being personal but the media at home and abroad would not take it on its face value and tried to dig into the actual cause of Tamim’s hurried return to Bangladesh from England along with his wife and daughter.
Tamim went to England just few days back to play eight matches for Essex Eagles in the Natwest T20 Blast. He just played one match and hurriedly returned back home. I have known Tamim and their entire family for more than fifty years. We lived in the same locality in Chittagong and his father Iqbal Hossain was a young friend of mine and we grew up together playing football and cricket. Iqbal was a very decent young man whose love for games is still well known in Chittagong. He even managed to organise a football team under the banner KKRC (Kazir Dewry Khawja Recreation Club) that played in First Division. Tamim’s Grandfather Syed Hossain ran a restaurant and also was a perfect gentleman. The family still has roots in our locality and when Tamim plays well the new generation feels very proud in the area. He is considered the local hero, beating the daylight out of the bowlers either in Australia or England.
Tamim’s father died quite young but our family relationships still continues. So when some disturbing news involves the family or Tamim it is a cause of concern for many of us.
On July 12 the Daily Independent published from UK wrote in its sports page with a banner headline ‘Tamim Iqbal forced to deny alleged acid attack on his family the reason behind his sudden Essex departure.’ The Deccan Chronicle published from Tamil Nadu wrote ‘Hate crime targeting me, my wife and son not reason behind Essex exit: Tamim Iqbal.’ Similar report has already been published in ESPN Cricinfo. Though Tamim denies that he or his family were victims of hate crime which unfortunately has become cause of alarm among the expatriate Muslims residing in certain parts of England Tamim’s sudden departure from Essex is not seen by his fans and cricket lovers in Bangladesh as just a simple family issue.
In the last few months there have been few terror attacks in London and Manchester claiming quite a few innocent lives. On March 22, a 55 year old man drove a van on the pedestrians near the Westminster Parliament Building killing five. On May 22 when a huge group of young audience was returning home after a rock concert in Manchester a massive explosion killed 23 and injured about hundred. Then came the London Bridge attack injuring many. This time also a vehicle was used to mow down pedestrians. In both incidents the attacker was perceived to be a militant Muslims having ties with ISIS.
During one of the attacks I happened to be in London and one afternoon when I went to say my Friday prayers in a community mosque the Imam warned that everyone should leave the mosque quietly soon after the prayer is over. Suddenly London, a city which has been known to me since late seventies with so many decent people, seemed a scary place. During the Ramadan people returning from the local mosques in some areas faced attacks from people who were suffering from Islamophobia (Islam haters), though Islam has nothing to do with militancy or terrorism. Everyday hundreds of people, including children and women are killed by US bombing in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Israel is bent on destroying the Palestinians for good. No one terms these killings as Christian or Jewish killing. It is termed as US or Israeli killing and these are systematic killing unlike the killings in Manchester or London which are known to be lone ranger operations.
Following the Manchester bombing and attacks in London the number of Islamophobic attacks have increased fivefold in the weeks following these attacks with 139 incidents reported to Tell Mama, the group recording Islamophobic crimes, compared to 25 incidents the week before the Manchester bombing reports Daily Guardian of June 20. Even doctors or nurses who work in hospitals to save lives of the victims of terror attacks often become victims of sporadic attacks by Islamophobics. According to the Guardian ‘In one case, Naveed Yasin, a trauma and orthopaedic surgeon who helped save the lives of people injured in the Manchester attack, was racially abused and labelled as “terrors” on his way to work at Salford Royal hospital. Other incidents around the country included one involving a woman from Southampton whose veil was ripped from her head, and another involving a man struck with a glass bottle.’ To make things worse suddenly throwing of acid on British Muslims became quite rampant in recent weeks and so far number of people, including women have been attacked and defaced by the acid throwers. In the land of ‘English Gentleman’ suddenly people of particular faith who have lived in Britain for generations in peace and harmony are feeling insecure just because some people have lost sanity.
In the case of Tamim what exactly happened is better known to him. But as per all available sources it has been reported that while Tamim along with his wife Ayesha Siddiqa and their one year old daughter went to dine outside in a local restaurant in London, they were chased by some Islamophobic and attempts were made to throw acid on them. Tamim’s wife was wearing a Hijab, a traditional Arab head covering (some would like to call Muslim tradition). One BCCB official told the press that Tamim and his family were harassed while out for dinner. Everyone expected that Tamim will share the incident when he returns home but he humbly said, ‘England is one of my favourite places to play cricket and Essex have been entirely gracious even though I had to leave early.’ Instead of downplaying the incident of Tamim and his family it would be proper for Tamim to share the incident with BCCB and BCCB instead of trying to sweep things under the carpet should ask the ICC to enquire the incident so that cricketers playing in England or elsewhere feel safe in future. This has to be done in the interest of cricket. If anything untoward happens in Bangladesh, it receives wide international coverage and when recently English cricket team came to play in Bangladesh the security measures taken by the Bangladesh law enforcing agencies was hailed by the English press. Cricket lovers are worried not only about the safety and security of the cricketers but also of the spectators, no matter where the game is being played. Cricket is known as a game of gentlemen.
The writer is a commentator and an analyst