Usman Khawaja
Australia’s Usman Khawaja celebrates reaching his century during day two of the third Test against South Africa at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) in Sydney on January 5, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

The governing body for the game of cricket, the International Council of Cricket or the ICC shares its namesake with another global organisation, the International Criminal Court, or the ICC. And just as the latter organisation has been selectively biased in dispensing judgement against heads of state, so has the former adopted similar means.

The International Criminal Court is known for its bellicose during the Darfur crisis in Sudan, calling for Omar Al-Bashir’s arrest back in 2009 for accusations of genocide against Darfur residents. It blatantly ignored the mass genocide that had taken place in Iraq following the illegal invasion by US and its allies.

Millions had died, and many more had lost limbs and eyes in the mass bombings that the then US Secretary of Defence Donal Rumsfeld termed as “shock and awe’ tactics. To this day there is nary a peep for one of the greatest criminal acts of this century.

The court once again displayed its blatant hypocrisy by vilifications against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, all the while ignoring the massacres that took place in Gaza back in 2002 and 2006 and engineered by the hardline Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

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Ingrained hypocritical

Following another unwarranted incursion in Gaza in 2008, Israeli activist Gideon Levy was so incensed by what he had witnessed that he wrote: “When the cannons eventually fall silent, the time for questions and investigations will be upon us ... Then we will see the scope of the killing and destruction, the crammed cemeteries and overflowing hospitals, the thousands of wounded and physically disabled, and the destroyed houses that remain after this war.

“The questions that will beg to be asked, as cautiously as possible, are who is guilty and who is responsible. “The public, moral, and judicial test will be applied to the three Israeli statesmen who sent the Israel Defense Forces to war against a helpless population, one that did not even have a place to take refuge, in maybe the only war in history against a strip of land enclosed by a fence. It is inconceivable that they not be held to account for the bloodshed.”

Nobody in the ICC ever brought up the complicity of the three.

Such indeed were the deeply ingrained hypocritical elements of the ICC which only flexed its muscles when it came to African or Arab leaders and swiftly buried its neck in the sand when others were involved.

Usman Khawaja takes a stand

Now getting back to the other ICC, the cricketing board, that too has displayed a biased history particularly when it comes to players of Asian origins. This sporting body had traditionally been comprised mostly of whites in the upper ranks with a smattering of non-whites.

Fast forward to last month in Australia in which a non-white member of the Australian cricket team Usman Khawaja wanted to highlight the plight of the people of Gaza by displaying a humanitarian message on his equipment during a Test match and was abruptly denied by the International Cricket Council.

Australia’s opener was photographed with the image of a dove holding an olive branch — a universal symbol of peace — on the back of his bat. The image read: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” The ICC in justifying the ban said. “Personal messages of this nature are not allowed as per Clause F of the Clothing and Equipment Regulations.”

Former West Indies cricketer and broadcasting legend, Michael Holding lambasted the ICC, “I have been following the Khawaja fiasco and I cannot say I am surprised by the ICC’s stance. If it had been most other organisations that showed some semblance of consistency with their attitude and behaviour on issues I could claim surprise, but not them. Once again, they show their hypocrisy and lack of moral standing as an organisation.”

Holding brought up past inconsistencies by the ICC when players across the globe had taken a knee to show their support during the Black Lives Matter, and the 2020 tour of England, the West Indies side had even worn ‘Black Lives Matter’ shirts. “The ICC regulations say re messaging ‘approval shall not be granted for messages which relate to political, religious or racial activities or causes’,” said Holding. “So how people were allowed to take a knee for BLM ...?”

Well, Holding. Khwaja was trying to bring to attention the plight of people who were not of the right colour or race.

Thus goes both organisations touting themselves as the ICC.

— Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena