Supporting Pakistan in Sri Lanka (Cricket and ID Politics)

Nice guy Pakistan fan at Pallekale

Halaal Sri Lanka tweeted the below this morning. The ACJU already sent what i think is a mass SMS via dialog saying the same.

Interesting. I think the ACJU message was a little blunt and slightly tactless. But in the context of the recent protests i suppose they rightly thought to quell any antagonistic behavior from more disruptive elements that work not out of any loyalty to the Prophet (peace be upon him) or Islam but for their own/inciteful reasons. So maybe we should applaud the ACJU for taking the initiative, but also one wonders if they couldn’t have done it in a more subtle manner. Indi has a post on it here.

As for why some Muslims in Sri Lanka support Pakistan over Sri Lanka. Personally i don’t know. But i can make a few guesses. Number one it is pretty much the only Muslim country that plays cricket. And if you look at the Muslim psyche there is a strong affinity towards Islamic collectivism (since Islam in essence doesn’t subscribe to nation statism). But Muslims in Sri Lanka identify themselves both as this global community of Muslims as well as Sri Lankans.

When it comes to cricket, almost every Muslim i know, including me, will support Sri Lanka over Pakistan. But i have known some Muslims who have opted to support Pakistan. Most of them come from communities that are very tight knit and isolated. So i’ve known this to happen in certain parts of Panadura like Sarikkamulla. I’ve heard of open and defiant support for Pakistan being expressed in towns like Maradana, Thihariya etc. Or at least, i think i have. Some of these displays have been very in-your-face. Like crackers being lit etc. Not very nice.

Muslims openly supporting Pakistan, to me, is quite a dated phenomenon. If you were to ask me what i think, based on my experience, i would say that i used to be aware of this a lot more when i was younger. But as time progressed, especially after the ’96 world cup, a lot less Muslims supported Pakistan over Sri Lanka. So i think it also has something to do with having a strong team in Sri Lanka to support. If your national identity doesn’t work for you, you switch to the alternative. Its an easy way of finding a winning team to root for.

My enthusiasm for cricket also changes with the Sri Lankan team’s performance. Although I’ve never supported anyone against our team, after the world cup throw away i got so dejected that i didn’t really start showing any interest in cricket until Sri Lanka’s last two matches in the World T20. Let’s face it, our team has an uncanny knack of never failing to disappoint. At the most crucial moments. So much pain.

Anyway does Pakistan’s team even represent Islam? I don’t know. Most of them are Muslims that is true. But i don’t even always support Pakistan when they are playing against another team. Truth be told to me cricket is not about religion. Cricket is about cricket. Entirely a different thing. And honestly i think this is the case for most Sri Lankan Muslims. I was at Pallekale for the Pakistan-New Zealand match. I was supporting Pakistan. But there were hundreds of Muslims in the crowd from Kandy. And most of them were cheering for both teams. Some of them even only for new Zealand.

So i don’t know how sports here in Sri Lanka mixes with identity politics. Indi says that even Prabhakaran supported Sri Lanka, but then again did he really have a lot of reasons to support India? If Eelam became a reality would they be sending a team to the SLPL? One thing i have noticed though is antagonism viz India. So much hate for India. I wondered why and asked around. People apparently don’t like their team members’ ‘arrogance’. And there’s also the perception that India has been historically always interfering with Sri Lanka’s internal affairs.

Generally speaking though. Sports is a major outlet of dissent. Take Scottish soccer for example. So if there are elements supporting other teams against Sri Lanka, it’s probably prudent to check why these elements apparently feel so disenfranchised.

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