Marginalisation in Britain as Path to Islamic Fervour and/or Cricketing Fervour

Michael Roberts, reprint of an article written in May 2003 and published in the International Journal of The History of Sport , 2004, vol. 21, no. 3-4, pp. 650-663. This article remains substantially the same as the original draft in May 2003, but has been embellished by additions in April 2004.[1] …. It is further embellished with hyperlinks that embrace subsequent processes and events, including the ISIS phenomenon and its repercussions. Insofar as lone wolf or lone cell extremism has embraced Australia as well (e.g. Man Haron Monis and Numan Haider) our reflections can be guided by the thoughts penned recently by Alan Dupont (2014) and yours truly (2014 and 2013).

Moeen+Ali- Moeen Ali  Omar Khan Sharif Omar Khan Sharif 

Kabir_Ali_ - WIKI Kabir Ali of Lancashire -elder brother of Moeen

LEE RIGBY KILLERS  Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale – killers of Lee Rigby, 22 May 2013

killer--_1733665a Adebolajo’s declamation after the assassination

Man Monis 11 Man Haron Monis  NUMAN HAIDER NumanHaider–

In interpreting the reasons that induce a handful of Sri Lankan cricket fans within the migrant diaspora to indulge in confrontational abuse that extends even to members of the Sri Lankan cricket team, I suggested recently that a condition of marginalisation and alienation may be one of the factors promoting such excesses.[2] This analysis was informed by my experience in the Australian setting. Here, however, I focus on Britain and England. This land now hosts a number of migrant peoples, each internally diverse, but present in sufficient numbers to provide voice. As such, Britain is a sociological laboratory for comparative studies. Within this terrain I extend my hypothesis to link migrant marginalisation and alienation not only to cricketing fervour, but also to Islamic fervour of the sort recently expressed by the suicide bombers Omar Khan Sharif and Asif Mohammed Hanif. This thesis is speculative and does not have the support of substantial empirical research on my own part.

Hanif and sharif Sharif & Hanif in A Gaza lat before their suicide operations in 2003- from Hamas release later – see

Within this popular laboratory, I propose to narrow my interest to first and second generation migrants though I am aware that the West Indians in Britain have now spawned a third generation, if not a fourth. This choice is directed by the speculative guess that alienation is relatively more pronounced among the earlier cohorts of migrants.

When I speak of migrants being alienated and marginalised within a host society in which they are a minority, I do not allege that every single migrant from, say, group DM, is moved by bitterness towards the dominant majority; or even that the majority of DM is alienated. A significant number of migrants improve their lot in Britain, or so it seems from the evidence of athletic tracks, soccer and cricket fields, the faces of BBC anchor personnel and the world of accounting, IT, finance and doctoring.[3]

Even when happy with their new circumstances, it appears that many Asian and Caribbean migrants of the first and second generations barrack for their homelands when sporting contests occur. But even this generalisation can be called into question. I had occasion to chat with Kabir Ali of Birmingham who plays now for Worcestershire and was on tour in Sri Lanka recently with the England Cricket Board’s team under Rod Marsh. Kabir himself was born in England, but had spent a good part of his boyhood days in the Pakistani part of Kashmir. Kabir comes from a cohort of young cricketers — for his cousin-brothers Kadeer Ali and Moeen Munir Ali are also contracted to counties. For such young second generation migrants cricket is not only a passion; it can also serve as a channel of mobility and generate both fame and lucrative career. In such circumstances becoming English patriot is a logical choice and pathway, one that has already been displayed by such individuals as Nasser Hussain, Owais Shah, Usman Afzaal, Irfan Habib and Bilal Shafayat (coincidentally all Muslim[4] even when their parents hail from India). But it is not Kabir Ali’s affiliation with England that I highlight here. It is that of his father. Rather to my surprise – for this is not the pattern that I am familiar with among Asians of the first generation in Australia – Kabir insisted that his migrant father had always supported England.

Having thus entered a caveat by highlighting the tale of Asian and other migrants who become English in sentiment, I move to those first and second generation migrants who ardently support teams from their country of origin. The degree of support, of course, varies with the individual. But we do know that a significant number are fervent fans. Not all such fans indulge in the vicious heckling of English players or confrontations with home-country fans. But a few do. And some among them may even castigate their own players (Sri Lankan, Indian, Pakistani or Bangla) if they perform badly. It is this aggressive and abusive segment of migrant fans that interest me. Let me call them “cricketing zealots.”

My suspicion is that in several cities in England there are enough Pakistanis, Indians, [Bangladeshis] and West Indians to make up a bunch of such zealots. Clustered thus, they can be more articulate and confrontational. Hate-speech is one outcome.[5] Such rhetoric may be defensive, responding to hate speech from aggressive bodies of English lads. Whether reactive counter thrust, response to imagined slight, or attack initiated, hate-speech is just that, “racist” in character and ramification.

It is my surmise that alienation and marginalisation directly arising from their migrant condition is one factor behind cricketing zealotry. I do not conclude that it is always the principal factor motivating excess. In several cases marginalisation could well be a contributory force of secondary importance to other motivations promoting sports zealotry. But in so far as it is a factor, then, England provides an ideal ground for comparative exercises that analyse the practices of cricketing zeal among Pakistanis, Indians, [Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans] and West Indians of the first and second generations.

West Indian Scenes

Among the West Indians, as we know, their loyalty is in and through their specific territory, whether Trinidad, Barbados, Guyana, et cetera. For this reason I shall use the short hand “Jamaican” as a synecdoche for the type “West Indian.” This choice is not happenchance. In mid-twentieth century Britain, in circumstances marked by experiences of White racism among the generality of coloureds in Britain, many Africans, Indians and other coloured newcomers admired the Jamaican migrants in England because they took no lip.[6] They had, as the Yanks would say, “attitude.” As the time-span I have referred to marks out, we are focusing here on first and second generation Jamaicans of the diaspora during the 1950s to 1970s.

This generational focus on my part is directed by a guess that the third generation is becoming more integrated into British society and less radical. This speculation has since been confirmed by Mike Marqusee’s unsolicited comments: “In general the Afro-Caribbean youth of today – now mostly third or fourth generation – are much less politicised than their forebears. They are immured in consumerism and commercial spectacle, and they look to African-American culture [rather] than the West Indies.” One outcome, he notes, is the fact that “Afro-Caribbean interest in cricket has declined precipitately here [in England] in recent years.”[7]

These remarks foreshadow my conviction that cricketing fervour cannot be viewed in isolation. The cricket field is part of wider scene and circumstance. Cricket becomes part of local politics. Expressing sentimental attachment to homeland and one’s totemic practices was (and is) a means of proclaiming selfhood and creating respect for self. In the shadow of a White Anglo-Celtic majority, and in situations marked by varying degrees of White racism, then, cricket fanaticism in Britain has connected with other expressions of Black consciousness (itself varying). One outstanding illustration of the latter during the late 1960s/early 1970s was the Notting Hill Carnival in London. Notting-Hill Carnival –

This event was initiated in 1966 by a social worker and reformer named Rhanee Laslett and was English in conception and composition. It drew its initial energy from a Black-White alliance involved in local agitation for urban housing that was confronting local council and landlords. However, “as the 1960s drew to an end the polyethnic character of carnival gave way to a polarized structure consisting of West Indian cultural formations as opposed to the British dominant culture.”[8] Thus, it became, at least for a while, a form of Black counter culture. As such, it embraced a diversity of Black people under the Caribbean flag, itself a diverse ‘group.’ The event brought together a mosaic of peoples and in this sense was neither homogeneous nor a “singularity.” But the variety was rendered a loose, singular confederation by its location within a context of White hegemony and its own tropes of opposition. In this work it was also harking back to Caribbean roots. As such the Notting Hill Carnival of the 1970s could also be aligned in the popular mind with the Rastafarians who were seen as the “taboo-breaking renegades of a new generation” and the critics of both capitalism and racist exploitation. A piece of police research on Handsworth in Birmingham in 1976 even encouraged media imagery that depicted the Rastas as a criminal subculture.[9]

Insofar as both Notting Hill Carnival as well as a World Cup Final at Lords in the 1970s assembled ardent West Indians as a collective ranged against the Other (whether dominant White order or the Australian cricket team in 1975), one confronts a sociological issue: the manner in which each fan subsumes his/her self in an expressive, wider collective.

For Jamaicans and West Indians one cannot address this question without analytical reference to the long history of White colonial domination in their lands and the force of slavery in this experience of subordination. Tales of the past carried across to Britain by migrants could have informed resentment just as much as the immediate experience of discrimination, difficulty and marginalisation in some specific spot in England. In either form we are dealing here with factors that congeal individuals into one “mob” (in the Aboriginal Australian sense of the term, namely, an interconnected crowd or cluster) against an enemy Other and/or a set of opponents on sporting field. Each ‘cell’ (individual) develops mass voice/power. The marginalised-person-of-normal-time suddenly becomes empowered — albeit fleetingly during the ‘ritual moment’ that assembles a mass.

Individual is to Collective: Negation of Self

But this relationship, that between the Individual and the Collective Mob/Crowd of “Us,” is precisely where there may be a difference between the practices and mentalities of the colonised migrants from the Indian subcontinent (here gathered together[10] for analytical purposes) and those from the Caribbean. I present this suggestion on the reasoning that the longer history of colonial domination in the Caribbean has (1) not only resulted in the overwhelming provenance of Christianity, in its varying denominational forms, within the West Indies in contrast to India and Pakistan; but also has (2) inscribed Western forms of individualism in more profound ways than that which prevails among people within the subcontinent. In brief, I conjecture that individualism is more sharply etched into West Indian ways of being in comparison with the ‘typical’ Indian or Pakistani.

But as soon as one says this, cautions have to be inserted. The Pentecostal forms of Christian religion have drawn many adherents in the Caribbean and pursue markedly congregationalist forms of koinonia (community). In Jamaica the Christian revivalism associated with Bedward’s Native Baptist Church seems to have linked up with Marcus Garvey’s advocacy of a “Return to Africa” to spawn the movement of politico-cultural resistance that is identified as Rastafarian.[11]

Rastafarianism was a loosely-integrated, multi-faceted stream of Black consciousness with millenarian strains that developed from the 1930s onwards. Its historical interpretations linked Christianity with the story of European imperialism and the dominance of the Whites. It saw present time as one of degradation of the type depicted in the biblical Babylon. The way out was through linkage with one Ras Tafari who was crowned in 1930 as Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia, the Lion of Judah. Thus a Black king became their messianic hope. Here, then was a form of Arcadian romanticism with anti-racist, anti-capitalist and anti-modernist currents.

RasSabbath-digjamaica,comA Rasta Sabbath —pic fr. jamaica-18-1-www.coutausse,com Pic fr. http://www.frontpagemag

But the Rasta worldview was also founded on a sense of self-worth and equality. Salvation was to be sought without mediating spirits of the sort so integral to revival Christianity. This emphasis was embodied in the central concept of I-n-I, one that “refers to the unity of God and all Rastafari – [for] God inheres in the people; not the spirit of God, but God as a total force.”[12] Such immediacy and wholeness, therefore, was an incentive and mandate for action. The potential challenge to the status quo from the Rastas lay in this orientation. But its rejection of mainstream values and the work ethic, and its communitarian economic philosophy, tended to place ardent Rastafari in isolated niches.

Again, as Cashmore notes, these very ideas had a form of conservatism built into it. In my reading, therefore, the Rastas of the mid-twentieth century were a walking paradox: a maverick group that discouraged dualisms and frowned on the use of the term “me” as bad, while nevertheless encouraging outrageous expressiveness through dreadlocks, dress and body language. Thus, threads of self-abnegation and communitarianism seem to run alongside beliefs that are the epitome of individualism. The weight of emphasis, ultimately, seems to be on the “I”. As such, and in their counter-cultural isolation, the Rastas differ markedly from those South Asian devotional strains that have for many centuries favoured a merging of self with God or Cause and that, today, have sometimes been mobilised in support of political causes demanding self-sacrifice for Language or Land or People or a combination thereof.[13] In contrast with the Rastas, I contend, such Asian activists are in tune with mainstream currents.

The regions that constitute the Indic civilisation have been especially fertile in promoting forms of religiosity that encompass and submerge followers within the God, Goddess or Saint they worship. Along one dimension such a focus demands considerable self-discipline from followers and thus emphasises individual strength of purpose.[14] But along other dimensions, each individual worshipper/follower subordinates his/her being to the demands of the Icon or the Collective Good. I have capitalised the focus of attention here in order to highlight the superior place accorded to the figure/goal that attracts followers.[15]

In some strands of devotional worship the bonds of devotion are so all-consuming that a follower can negate his/her selfhood and consubstantiate him/herself within the figure of adoration; so that in extreme cases it may even lead followers to commit self- immolation or to cut off their limbs.[16] I derive the idea of “consubstantiation,” the merging of one’s substance-cum-being within another, from Ramanujan’s clarification of the Cankam (Sangam) poetry of the Tamil peoples in the last centuries BCE and early centuries CE.[17] Central to the force of such tendencies in the Indian subcontinent are such popular concepts as akarsana, shakti, bhakti and darshan.[18]


Writing about the Indian world on the basis of his study of the famed Sanskrit poet, Kalidas, Wimal Dissanayake had this to say of the central concept of darshana (blessing, boon): “to see an image of a god … and to be seen by the divinity in turn counts as a highly significant religious experience to the Hindus. And the notion of darshan does not enjoy this kind of esteem in the Western tradition.” Further, in summarising Kassebaum’s essay on the katha performances of Karnataka in southern India, he adds: “the intent of these performances is linked with the notion of self as communal image.”[19]  Such cultic devotion is not necessarily confrontational. Indeed, in the forms of mystical devotion promoted by the Sufis, the specific practices are directed towards generating mystical and transcendental koinonia.[20] Sufism in its turn is but one of the many currents that link the world of India with the Middle Eastern lands.

From Marginalisation to Cricketing and Political Fervour

Just as Rastafarianism was carried across from the Caribbean to Britain by the West Indian migrants, South Asian forms of worship have been incorporated into the life-ways of Indian, Pakistani and other South Asian migrants in Britain. Indeed, in a context where many first generation migrants face hardship, deprivation, (some) discrimination and (some) marginalisation one would expect both first and second generations to seek succour through the familiar forms of religious expression.

In sum, therefore, I have established a backdrop that enables me to address the central question directing this article: in what ways and to what degree does the marginalisation of some first/second generation migrants encourage (1) a few to vicariously express their resentment and nationalism through cricketing zealotry and (2) yet others to take up extreme forms of nationalist activity concerning their homeland or, in the case of Islamic faithful oriented towards the global umma, connect them in some instances to the jihad against what al-Qa’ida calls the “Zionist-Crusader alliance.”[21]

In effect I am suggesting that the Pakistani British cricket fan who has literally girded his loins for verbal confrontation with overzealous English cricket fans may share common ground with the Pakistani, Indian or Bangladeshi Muslim Britons who become jihadists in the contemporary era. One of the possible foundations for their affinities lies in the condition that I have called “marginalisation and alienation” – namely the felt/imagined status of a disadvantaged minority subject to varying measures of discrimination. The sense of disempowerment that arises from this universe of being, in my view, can impel individuals towards the extremes.

Sharif (aged 27) and Hanif (aged 21) certainly went to the extreme: they opted to terminate their lives[22] on behalf of the Palestinian cause, a particular version of the jihad. This was their “martyrdom operation,” the phrase used by specialists to convey the dominant contemporary meaning of jihad.[23] In Sharif’s case, it now (2004) emerges, his project was whole-heartedly endorsed by his siblings and wife.[24]

Omar Khan Sharif Omar Khan Sharif

More information on these men will emerge in the ongoing investigations in the near future. But preliminary news reports indicate that both came from “comfortable backgrounds in English suburbia” (Weekend Australian, 3-4 May 2003). Sharif attended a famous prep school and was a married man with two children. In brief, the inspiration for their political extremism does not seem to have been material deprivation and economic disadvantage.

This is not to say that economic deprivation is not a factor promoting long distance nationalism, Islamic fundamentalism and counter-racist backlashes among clusters of Asian migrants in Britain. The ghetto-world of urban suburbs with Asian constellations in such towns as Oldham, Bradford et cetera in Britain, towns where unemployment is widespread across the White-Black-Coloured divide, must surely be a major factor behind the eruption of the occasional “racial riot.” I presume there is a stack of sociological literature on this subject.

But, as common sense would suggest, one does not have to be economically down-and-out to take up a cause fervently. The story of Hanif and Sharif is a case in point. Their individual and familial motivations could not have been economic. This does not preclude a sense of marginalised alienation on their part. This has already been recognised, albeit in passing, in one work on the al-Qa’ida: “[Osama’s pan-Islamic ideology has] great resonance among young Muslims the world over, including those living in the West who [have] found it difficult adapting to … their new environment.”[25]

In brief, one can feel marginalised without being hit in the pocket. There are several doctors, accountants and other professionals among Tamil and Sinhalese migrants in Western countries who espouse extreme forms of nationalist rhetoric in support of their respective causes. Here we see that familiar phenomenon, “long distance nationalism.”[26] A recent expression of Buddhist fundament- alism from a former lecturer in Economics residing in Queensland even criticises the Muslims of Sri Lanka for proselytising Sinhala Buddhists.[27] Grapevine gossip indicates that Tamil doctors in Britain were among those who facilitated the recruitment of IRA operatives to train young Tamil militants in bomb making in the 1980s-and-therabouts.[28] The broad point I make here is that such personnel have the capacity to present a battery of arguments, in varying degrees of cogency, absurdity and one-sidedness, for their position.

Since these professional people are well off and in secure occupations,[29] economic dislocation cannot explain their political activism. What, then, promotes their resentment and political fervour? Conjecturally, I suggest two interlinked factors are behind their course of action: (1) their lack of influence and their socio-political marginalisation in the politics of residential locality/country; and (2) ideological convictions developing from the politics of their homeland and/or global events.[30]

In pursuing this line of inquiry through the instance of Sharif and Hanif, the question, then, is whether alienated resentment is one reason why some Muslim Brits become fervent zealots for Palestine, al-Qa’ida, the Taliban and so on. Commonly, Citizen Smith in the West tends to depict such jihadists as “fanatics” and “simpletons” who have been indoctrinated. In similar fashion analysts devalue the project of the jihadists by arguing that they have been promised a place in “Paradise” and by then proceeding to deploy Islamic texts to depict exotic details of this marvellous world. The atrocity of September 11th was immediately followed by news items of this sort. In this manner the zealots who undertook such terrible acts have been presented as men seeking the goodies of the Islamic after-life. Where presented as adequate explanation, the analysis says more about the authors and their Western audience than Mohammed Atta and his assassins. Indeed, it made the latter into consumers of other worldly goods, with a selfish goal directed towards an elevated existence elsewhere.

Such part-truths about the Islamic devotees’ idea of Paradise are meant to belittle, while the depiction of Islamic jihadists as indoctrinated robots casts these thinking men into the nether world beyond ordinary ken. Such explanations undervalue the degree of agency and commitment that individual suicide bombers bring to their cause. Therefore, such explanations obscure rather than assist our deciphering work. The evidence from the investigations of recent bombings reveals that the goal of martyrdom is not distinguished from the reasons for this path and the procedures that are attached to such reasons. A simple-minded focus on the jihadists as Paradise-seekers trivialises a more complex mind-set.

As demonstrated in the Four Corners Program aired by the Australian Broadcasting Service, Imam Samudra, one of the masterminds behind the Bali bombing of October 2002, insisted that the recruits for suicidal action, whom he then proceeded to train, should be “pure of heart.”[31] Likewise, “The Last Night,” a document fashioned by the team of killers who perpetrated the attack on September 11th 2001, is clearly authored by persons “steeped in the hadith literature and in early Muslim history.” This document was apparently meant to assist the ‘martyr’ through the difficult task of taking his own life … in such a way that this act would be one of spiritual worship and not merely mass murder.” Its dominant theme is that of prayer. In other words, the authors “conceived of this mission in religious terms” and designed the document “to purify the heart and the final actions of the participants preparatory to their entrance into heaven.”[32]

Mohamed_Atta Mohammed Atta, operational commander of the 9/11 attack- see

All this is in line with Ibn Haibban’s definition of the mujahid or jihadist as “one who strives against the self.”[33] The word jihad is a “verbal form of the third form of the root jahada which means to strive, to exert to struggle.” The idea here is that as a follower of the Allah one is expected to exert “one’s utmost effort …against a visible enemy, the devil and/or aspects of one’s own self.” Thus in verse xxix: 6 of the Qur’an it is said: “And if any strive (with might and main) – jahada — they do so for their own souls: For God is free of all needs from all creation.” Though never used in the sense of warfare in the Quran, jahada has close links with the word qital (which means “fighting”) in both Qur’an and early Muslim history.[34] As such, it has enabled latter-day militants to rework the classical texts to identify jihad with a holy war against those deemed to be threats to the proper Islamic order.

Ibn Haibban’s emphasis on personal growth is also in accord with Osama bin Laden’s thinking. Osama’s pontifical sermon of February 12th 2002 commanded his “Believers” to adhere to several “important lessons” before they took up the “just war” against America in order to avoid falling into the trap of an unjust war. Let me restrict my summary to just one, the first lesson: which enjoined them “to be honest in intention that the fighting would be for the sake of God not to triumph for nationalism.”[35]

Thus, in review, I argue that Hanif and Sharif were not mindless fanatics. One can allow for a measure of indoctrination in their reasoning, but this is a product of a profound process.[36] As a process, it would share several similarities with the indoctrination that makes a person a committed member of the Catholic or Buddhist faithful, an Orthodox Jew, a Jehovah’s Witness, and so on, or, for that matter, with necessary provisoes and amendments, a cricket buff.

Again, the conventional popular explanations for the intensity of the Islamic jihadist hate do not encourage analysis of the international circumstances that have alienated so many Muslims in different parts of the world over the last decade. Let me note my interpretation of their thinking on a generalised scale. The actions of the jihadists are inspired, even impelled, by what can be called the “rage of humiliation” – anger at the dishonour and disempowerment imposed on the Islamic faith and its representative states by the present world order.[37]

To say this, of course, is not to justify their courses of action. Nor should the term “rage” imply that their actions are always frenzied. Rage can be steely in its focus. The end goals may be pursued with meditative prayer as procedure during the very moment of sacrificial action – as indeed enjoined in “The Last Night.” Likewise, both Tahira and Parveen, Omar Sharif’s wife and sister respectively, advised him by email to “make dua [prayer],” “have no time for emotions” and to remain “patient.”[38] While these earnest exhortations were practical rules to guide Sharif towards a determined completion of his project, they reveal the depth of steely focus shared by this zealous family.

Without recognising the anger which courses through such personnel one cannot take remedial action. One source of such anger is the vivid picture of punitive Israeli action in Israel and Palestine that the media has placed before our eyes every week for over a decade.[39] Such operations are never deemed “terrorist,” and thus illegitimate, by those who control the Western networks. In these commanding circles “terrorism” is a brand extended towards one ‘animal’ only, namely, one that is never Western. It is this type of weighted injustice in representation that can impel an educated Muslim Brit to join the jihadist crusade against the West and/or Israel.

From his radical stance and long experience in Britain and USA, Mike Marqusee endorsed my use of the phrase “weighted injustice in representation.” It has often been remarked that George Bush and Israel together serve as the best recruiting sergeants for Al Qa’ida. What both Marqusee and I are saying is that by its very assumptions, biases and one-sidedness the Western media compounds the alienation of migrant Muslims in the West. To quote Marqusee: “the war and the treatment of the Palestinians, coupled with white racism in general but specifically Islamophobia, have strengthened the sense of Muslim identity.”[40]

However, Marqusee adds an immediate, and significant, proviso. He find’s it “surprising that there haven’t been more Western-grown suicide bombers” and contends that those Muslim migrants in Britain who take the jihadist path “are highly unrepresentative.” In this manner he marks their difference from the cricket zealots. That there are so few Muslim migrants taking to radical political paths, he conjectures, is due in part to “the endless seductions of the consumer society” and the fact that the second and third generations have “been forced to become more thoughtful” in their politics of protest against the wrongs of Palestine et cetera. They are not less passionate, but see that the tactics of the type associated with 9/11 are both wrong and futile.[41]

In review, then, my argument is that a profound sense of indignation courses through the thinking of Islamic zealots. The feeling that their religion and peoples (the umma, or community of believers) have been severely dishonoured impels them towards counter action. Their legitimations are grounded in this sense of disfranchised and disparaged victimisation.[42]

In taking up a jihad and seeking martyrdom an individual Muslim sets up an end-goal. As goal, then, martyrdom provides what can be called an “in order to” motive. The project, along this dimension, is future-oriented. But intentions have a dual character, although the duality is like the proverbial coin in its connections. There also are “because of” motives,[43] the reasoning that pushes rather than pulls. At any moment of reflection, such “because of” reasoning can look backwards at one’s circumstances and read the impelling-factor teleologically as an “in-order-to” inspiration. Without inserting such complexities into one’s appraisal, therefore, any interpretation of the fanatical actions of zealots such as Sharif and Hanif in terms of a heavenly-quest is one-sided and inadequate.

From this step it follows that the political and religious convictions of particular Muslims could lead them to a jihadist position today. Religio-political ideology can be both principal and sufficient cause. That is, marginalisation and alienation is not always pertinent. While granting this possibility, I nevertheless hold that individual experiences of marginalisation in migrant settings have the potential to influence the movement of a person towards the position of political zealot. This is because the sense of disempowerment associated with marginalised alienation that is experienced as a member of a Muslim minority in a new land, including, as it does, exposure to tales of White racism, provides a parallel to his/her reading of the contemporary political situation of Islamic states and Muslims everywhere. Resentment can build up because of the homologous juxtaposition of one’s personal local circumstance and the global circumstance of Muslims of the umma.

Since drafting this argument, I find that Fuad Nahdi, a correspondent for the Guardian in Britain, uses the Sharif and Hanif incident to make the same point. “The descent into extremism of parts of the British Muslim community has been a long process…. The combined forces of racial discrimination and Islamophobia have been awesome in the marginalisation and alienation of the community. As a result few, particularly, young people, feel they have any viable stake in society.” In his evaluation the most significant factor in generating resentment has been “the running sore of Palestine.”[44]

 In Review

My essay, quite explicitly, takes a speculative tack. It neither has a foundation of empirical work among migrant peoples residing in Britain nor even a reading of the extensive literature on the subject. Its contentions are suggestive. Its starting point is the conviction that sport is a form of politics and part of politics. On this foundation, and that of personal experiences among migrants in Australia, I surmise that marginalised alienation promotes some of the activities of both cricketing zealots and religio-political zealots.

Building on this hypothesis, this essay is a call for sportswriters on the one hand and sociologists/political scientists on the other to lean on each other. The world of cricketing fanatics in Britain can provide an entry point to the condition of marginalised alienation among first- and second-generation Asian and Caribbean migrants. Such a comparative “laboratory” can provide insights into life circumstances that spawn “long distance nationalism” and “terrorism” today. I am not asking sportswriters to become reformers. I merely request them to look beyond the cricket field and, in comparing the practices of fans from different backgrounds, to provide information that can be useful to those oriented towards social analysis (as distinct from policy-making, though the latter requires a foundation of analytical work). Such cross-fertilisation between sportswriters and social scientists does not require great leaps. Many scholars are sports buffs. In the case of such personnel as Mike Marqusee, Richard Cashman, Warwick Franks and Bernard Whimpress,[45] one has both strains reposing under one hat.


[1] The initial version appeared in International Journal of The History of Sport , 2004, vol. 21, no. 3-4, pp. 650-663. It has also been printed in Sport in South Asian Society. Past and Present, ed. by Boria Majumdar, London: Routledge, June 2004. [Clearly, we have to re-visit the issues raised in this article in the light of (A) the London underground bombings of July 2005 and (B) the recent trickle of young Brits and Australians to the cause of jihadist forces in Syria and Iraq — and especially the ISIS factor].

[2] See my “Abusive Cricket Fans: A Clarification,” Island (Sri Lanka), April 2003. [This short essay can now be seen in Roberts, Essaying Cricket. Sri Lanka and Beyond, Colombo, Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2004.]

[3] Anwar Choudhury, a Bangladeshi Brit in the official cadre of the Foreign Office, has recently been appointed to the position of High Commissioner for UK in Bangladesh. When Zeyna Badawi (?)interviewed him for BBC World Service (1 May 2004) explicitly applied the Norman Tebbitt “cricket test” and asked him whom he would support when England played Bangladesh at cricket, he was quite clear that his sentiments were with England. But he added that, as a cricketer himself and “a lover of the game,” he would “wish Bangladesh to do well.” During the game he made it clear that he was not “sent” to Bangladesh – for he applied for the job and secured it in competition over other serving personnel. Also see fn. 42.

[4] Shafayat, England’s Under 19 Captain in the recent series against Australia, affirmed that when he scores a match-winning century at Lord’s he will kneel in the direction of Mecca and publicly give thanks to God. Ted Corbett, who kindly supplied this information, felt that “there is a force at work here beyond my comprehension.” Such actions should, however, be placed alongside Chanderpaul’s action of kneeling on the grass and kissing the ground when he reached a century at Antigua recently, Matthew Hayden’s sign of the cross and Michael Johnson’s reverential kneeling and sign of the cross after a triumphant run.

[5] Marqusee can only “recall a few isolated comments over the years” in his experience. If this verdict is a valid generalisation, then it would appear that the situation is rather different from the context of the MCG where Sri Lankan fans direct considerable abuse at security guards as well as the Aussie players (information form Channa Wickremasekera). In the case of England Marqusee surmises that the Asian fans are inhibited by the presence of a mass of local supporters and are fully attuned to the fact that “there’s a line they cannot cross.” Marqusee also observes that the “partisan intensity of the pro-Pakistani [cricket] crowds in England is “modest compared to the kind of ‘hate speech’ of all kinds that can be heard at any major football ground on a Saturday” (email note, 11 June 2003).

[6] I am informed by my experience of staying with my sister in Tulse Hill, London, next door to Brixton, for significant spells in the years 1962-66.

[7] Email Note from Marqusee: 11 June 2003 (for the benefit of the uninitiated let me stress that Marqusee is an American radical who has lived in UK for decades and writes on cricket among other subjects; also see fn. 45). Thus, where one had Lewis, Small, Lawrence, Cowan, Butcher, Alleyne etc playing county cricket and competing for England caps in the 1980s and early 1990s, today in 2004 one has hardly any British-born Blacks (Mark Butcher is partially one) at the peak levels. They have been outdone by diasporic Pakistani or Indians. Remarkably, too, the latter are mostly Muslim as distinct from Sikh or Hindu: in the listing of county squads for 2004 as many as 18 are Muslims whom I presume to be of sub-continental background as opposed to 9 who seem to be Parsi, Hindu or Other Indian (and this count excludes the 7 or 8 Pakistani internationals signed up with the counties).

[8] Abner Cohen, “A Polytethnic London Carnival as a Contested Cultural Performance,” Ethnic and Racial Studies, 1982, vol. 5, p. 31.

[9] Ellis Cashmore, “The De-labelling Process: from ‘Lost Tribe’ to ‘Ethnic Group’,” in B. Chevannes (ed) Rastafari and Other African-Caribbean Worldviews, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1998, 182.

[10] Within this assemblage, of course, further refinements will introduce significant differentiation.

[11] The summary in this section is my reading derived from Barry Chevannes, “New Approach to Rastafari,” and Ellis Cashmore, “The De-labelling Process,” in B. Chevannes (ed) Rastafari and Other African-Caribbean Worldviews, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1998, pp. 20-42 and 182-95 respectively, as well as Cashmore, The Rastafarians,

[12] Ellis Cashmore, “The De-labelling Process,” in B. Chevannes (ed) Rastafari, 1998, p. 185.

[13] See Michael Roberts, ‘Filial Devotion in Tamil Culture and the Tiger Cult of Martyrdom,’ Contributions to Indian Sociology, 1996, vol. 30, pp. 245-72; Sumathi Ramaswamy, Passions of the Tongue. Language Devotion in Tamil India, 1891-1970, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997 and Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney, Kamikaze, Cherry Blossoms, and Nationalisms: the Militarization of Aesthetics in Japanese History, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002. While revealing the state-sponsored cult of Emperor worship and patriotism for country, Ohnuki-Tierney uses the diaries of pilots to show that the kamikaze pilots did not necessarily buy into all facets of this ideology.

[14] For a detailed clarification of another path, one that converts suffering persons (usually women) into ascetics who become healers and/or mediators between troubled souls and the gods, see G. Obeyesekere, Medusa’s Hair. An Essay on Personal Symbols and Religious Experience, University of Chicago Press, 1981.

[15] For instance see the details on the Periya Purānam, a twelfth century Cola (Chola) text, in Dennis Hudson, “Violent and Fanatical Devotion among the Nayanars: A Study in the Periya Purānam of Cekkilār,” in A. Hiltebeitel (ed.) Criminal gods and Demon Devotees, Delhi: Manohar, 1990, pp. 373-405. Other better-known examples of self-abnegation occurred in Vietnam in 1963 and 1966 when Buddhist monks and others immolated themselves as public protests directed towards political goals. Thus, Thich Quang Duc, the originator of this tactical innovation, construed his action on 11 June 1963 as “a donation to the struggle;” while the militant leader, Thich Tri Quang, argued that “Burning oneself to death is the noblest form of struggle” (both quoted in Michael Biggs, “Dying without Killing: protest by self-immolation,” Mss paper).

[16] When the news of Mrs Gandhi’s assassination reached Tamilnadu, at least ten people attempted suicide or committed suicide, in some cases by self-immolation; and these actions were attributed locally to grief associated with her death (Hindu 3 Nov 1984). Likewise, when MGR, the film star turned political leader of Tamilnadu, suffered a paralytic stroke in October 1984 “at least twenty-two people immolated themselves and cut off their limbs, fingers or toes as offerings to various deities” who were propitiated to spare MGR; while more than a hundred people are said to have attempted self-immolation. When he died on the 24th December 1987, at least 31 of “his desolate followers” are said to have been “unable to contain their grief” to the point where they committed suicide (Pandian, The Image Trap. New Delhi: Sage Publications, 1992, pp. 17-18). Others in the principal Tamilian city of Madras went on “an orgy of violence” in the main thoroughfare of Anna Salai. Several of them assaulted the statue of MGR’s archrival, M Karunanidhi, with crowbars and placed burning tyres around its neck in a symbolic killing (Frontline 9-22 Jan 1988, p. 122). What is more, at these sites of violence exclamations of despair, essentialised expressions, were voiced by MGR’s followers: “With MGR dead what is the use of living” (India Today, 15 Jan 1988, pp. 25-26). Cf. the Periya Purānam (fn. 13 above).

[17] A K Ramanujan, Poems of Love and War, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1985, pp. 288ff.

[18] Respectively: akarsana refers to “current of energy” or “magnetism;” shakti to “(inner) power” and bhakti to “(unqualified) devotion.”

[19] Wimal Dissanayake 1998 ‘Introduction to Part Three’, in T. Kasulis et al (eds) Self as Image in Asian Theory and Practice, State University of New York Press, 1998, pp. 221, 222.

[20] I am informed here by (a) a performance of “Whirling Dervishes” at the Adelaide Festival of Arts and (b) my conversations with Arthur Saniotis of the Dept. of Anthropology at the University of Adelaide. Saniotis has studied some Sufis in Delhi.

[21] See their August 1996 edict quoted in Rohan Gunaratna, Inside Al Qaeda, New York: Columbia University Press, 2002, pp. 88-89.

[22] Sharif’s bomb did not detonate. He was initially believed to be in hiding, but his body turned up in the sea a few weeks afterwards (cause of death not specified). Note that a reporter Claudio Franco considered Hanif “the most religiously motivated of Bakri’s pupils” when she visited Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed’s mosque in Hounslow, London, a few months prior to his martyrdom operation (Guardian, 3 May 2003, p. 7). For bio-data on these two jihadists, see KKKK. More recently the Palestinian resistance has circulated the proclamations-of-commitment on video. For a review see Donald Macintyre in the Independent, 9 March 2004.

[23] Both textually and in recent usage, jihad has several meanings, some of which overlap. See David Cook, “Suicide attacks or ‘martyrdom operations’ in contemporary jihad literature,” Novo Religio, Oct. 2002 and for other quotations Gunaratna, Inside Al Qaeda, New York: Columbia University Press, 2002, pp. 84-85. Among the sources used by Gunaratna are The Jihad Fixation and–Suhayb.

[24] Guardian, 27 April 2004 report on trial at Old Bailey by Vikram Dodd and the Press Association. More recently the Palestinian resistance has circulated Hanif and Sharif’s proclamations-of-commitment on video. For a review see Donald Macintyre in the Independent, 9 March 2004.

[25] Gunaratna, op. cit., p. 87.

[26]A concept coined, I believe, by Benedict Anderson. See chapter under that head in his The Spectre of Comparison, London, Verso, 1998 as well as Sam Pryke, “British Serbs and Long Distance Nationalism,” Ethnic and Racial Studies, Jan. 2003, vol. 26, pp. 152-72.

[27] See Victor Gunasekara, “The plot to spread the Muslim religion & culture in Sri Lanka,” A Memo circulated by email in late April 2003 and referring to Senaka Weeraratna’s article (presumably in the Island) on “Catholic Action in Lake House.” Also refer to, for the Queensland Humanist, January 2003.

[28] I cannot name my sources for obvious reasons.

[29] The Singaporean government compiled a “psychological profile” of the 31 detainees they believe to be part of a Jemaah Islamiyah network that planned terrorist acts in their state. One third are deemed to have “intelligence above the average,” while all had received “secular education” and “held normal, respectable jobs” (White Paper, The Jemaah Islamiyah Arrests and the Threat of Terrorism, Ministry of Home Affairs, 7 Jan. 2003, p. 15).

[30] Recently a survey of 38,000 people in 44 countries led to the Pew Report (2002) which concluded that sizeable proportions of Muslims in many countries justified suicide attacks in defence of Islam. While the proportion constituted a majority only in two countries, “more than a quarter of a Muslims in nine nations subscribe[d] to this view” (quoted in Martinesz, “Deconstructing Jihad,” IDSS, 07A/2003.

[31] Directed by Sally Neighbour, this was presented 28 Oct. 2002. For biographical information on Imam Samudra, alias Abdul Aziz, also see the Australian, 18 Nov. 2002, Weekend Australian, 23-24 Nov. 2002 and Advertiser, 26 Nov. 2002.

[32] David Cook, “Suicide Attacks or ‘Martyrdom Operations’ in Contemporary jihad Literature,” Nova Religio, 2002, vol 6: 7-44.

[33] Quoted in Gunaratna, op.cit, p. 84.

[34] All quotations from Patricia Martinesz, “Deconstructing Jihad,” IDSS Commentaries, 07A/2003, Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, Singapore.

[35] This statement was broadcast by the Arabic al-Jazeera network. A translation was provided in the Australian, 13 Feb. 2003.

[36] Note the manner in which the JI organisation in Singapore and Malaysia cemented the commitments of its recruits (White Paper, The Jemaah Islamiyah Arrests and the Threat of Terrorism, Ministry of Home Affairs, 7 Jan. 2003, pp. 15-16).

[37] This summary interpretation is one that I have held for many years now, largely on the reading of reportage on television as well as newspaper. However, confirmation of this viewpoint has since been derived from the reading of David Cook’s work (see fn. 31 above), Roxanne L. Euben, Enemy in the Mirror. Islamic Fundamentalism and the Limits of Modern Rationalism, Princeton University Press, 1999 and Rohan Gunaratna, Inside Al Qaeda, New York: Columbia University Press, 2002, chaps.1 and 2.

[38] Guardian, 27 April 2004 report on trial at Old Bailey by Vikram Dodd and the Press Association.

[39] More recently, Neil Clark (an university Tutor in England) has made a germane observation: “Who needs al-Qa’ida recruitment videos when you have the speeches of Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld threatening dire consequences for any Arab state that doesn’t toe the line” (Australian, 16 May 2003, p. 13).

[40] Email Note, 11 June 2003.

[41] Email Note, 11 June 2003. The arrest of some Pakistani Brits in the Ealing region in early March 2004 on suspicion of preparations for a terrorist strike does not alter Marqusee’s impressionistic assessment. ADDENDUM: Clearly now in 2014 one has to review and re-adjust this reading of the British Muslim world in the light of commitment to the ISIS and/or Palestinian cause shown by some elements (a minority no doubt but not insignificant) of the Islamic peoples in Great Britain.

[42] See Massoud Shadjareh, “Aliens in their Own Country,” Guardian, 1 April 2004 and Martinesz, “Deconstructing Jihad,” IDSS, 07A/2003. Shadrejah begins with an instance of an anti-Islamic tirade at street level directed by a woman at two male students who looked Middle Eastern and argues that “British non-Muslims are scared of Muslims; they’re angry with them and they’re paranoid about the threat they perceive from Muslims ready to blow them up. British Muslims are scared of the backlash against them from non-Muslims. They’re also paranoid about their safety from wider society, the security services…. At either end of this polarisation we are seeing a level of alienation that bodes ill for British society.” When Anwar Choudhury, new High Commissioner fro Bangladesh (see fn. 3), was asked to “explain” why some of the two million Muslims in Britain today feel alienated, he said that he could not understand it (BBC World Service, 1 May 2004).

[43] The distinction between “because of’ and “in order to” motives is developed by Alfred Schutz. See especially The Problem of Social Reality. Collected Papers 1 by Alfred Schutz, 5th edn, Hague: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1982, pp. xxxviii-ix, 22, 91, 95, 218, 235. Also see Schutz, The Phenomenology of the Social World, London: Heinemann, 1981.

[44] Item entitled “Tel Aviv first then Manchester?” Guardian, 2 May 2003, p. 27. Nahdi’s estimate of the proportions drawn to extremism should be taken with caution. Quantitative assessment is an area that is notoriously problematic. Also note the provisoes entered by Marqusee that have been stressed earlier in the body of the essay. But also note that Imam Samudra has confirmed that he was inspired to join Jemaah Islamiyah by stories of discrimination against Muslims in the Palestinian territories, Afghanistan and Iraq rather than bin Laden’s sermons (Australian, 12 May 2003, p.12).

[45] Marqusee is author of Redemption Song. Muhammad Ali and the Spirit of the Sixties, London, Verso, 1999 as well as Anyone but England: Cricket and the National Madness, Two Heads, 1998; Whimpress of Passport to Nowhere, Aborigines in Australian Cricket, 1999; Cashman of Paradise of Sport: the Rise of Organised Sport in Australia, 1995.


Filed under Al Qaeda, arab regimes, atrocities, cultural transmission, Islamic fundamentalism, jihad, life stories, martyrdom, photography, politIcal discourse, power politics, religiosity, suicide bombing, terrorism, the imaginary and the real, unusual people, war reportage, world events & processes, zealotry

7 responses to “Marginalisation in Britain as Path to Islamic Fervour and/or Cricketing Fervour

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  7. This morning —July 12th, the day after England’s superb victory over Australia in the ODI World Cup semi-final, ….the clip shown across British TV networks, (possibly provided by Murdoch’s Sky who own the rights) omits any footage or even any mention of the contribution made by Adel Raschid in taking 3 key wickets in the middle overs of the Aussie’s innings:

    While it is true that with his sticky-out beard and obvious south Asian build, leggie Raschid is definitely a Muslim and to a casual non-cricketing fan might look like an ISIS inspired terrorist, it is symptomatic of the covert racism that is creeping into British political discourse, that the commercial media should try to expunge him from the short package shown on the rolling news.

    If there are no images of Muslims in any other guise than as demented hate-filled murderers, that covert xenophobia will grow exponentially and move from covert to overt in no time…just witness the crowd of hate-filled supporters of Tommy Robinson, the racist demagogue of the EDF who was jailed at the Old Bailey yesterday for contempt of court: His white, largely male and testosterone-charged followers physically assaulted media, any anti-Brexiteers they could find and were clearly on the hunt for some ethnic minority persons to beat up before police could round up the worst offenders and get them to disperse…..

    We historians who have studied the rise of racist populism in the late 19th and early 20th century, of the western world, know know quickly hate speech can take over political debate….one look at the whipping up of anti-Tamil/anti-Muslim sentiment by some in Sri Lanka public life shows how universal and seductive the racist power-play can be….it is becoming a sad world…the only silver lining on the dark clouds approaching is that the Planet will bite back before we “wise humans” have a chance to destroy the environment S/he has so kindly provided!

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