False claims were spread by former Pakistani national team player and coach Inzamam-ul-Haq that Indian Sikh player Harbhajan Singh “almost” converted to Islam.
by Massimo Introvigne
Just a few weeks after the Danish Kaneria case, featuring a former player of Pakistan’s national team who was banned for match-fixing but now claims he was framed by his Muslim teammates because he is Hindu, a new religion-based scandal is hitting Pakistani cricket.
Former player and coach of Pakistan’s national team, Inzamam-ul-Haq, claimed that Harbhajan Singh, a famous Indian former cricket player and currently a member of the Indian Parliament, was “about” to convert to Islam. The story told by Inzamam-ul-Haq is that players for Pakistan invited some members of the Indian national cricket team, including Harbhajan Singh, to listen to Maulana Tariq Jamil, a famous Muslim preacher and a member of the missionary organization Tablighi Jamaat, leading the Pakistani cricketeers in prayer. According to Inzamam-ul-Haq, Harbhajan Singh was so impressed that he was “close to converting to Islam.”
Except that the story is not true. Harbhajan Singh tweeted that he is and remains a “proud Indian and a proud Sikh,” and he can only explain Inzamam-ul-Haq’s comments by assuming that the former Pakistan’s national team coach was drunk when he made them.
Cricket is the national sport both in India and Pakistan and the question is not trivial. Inzamam-ul-Haq and Harbhajan Singh are well-known national figures. The exchange between the two generated a debate, where Inzamam-ul-Haq and other Pakistani cricketeers stated that they used cricket to try to convert non-Muslim players to Islam, including when they played for British clubs in Europe.
Paraphrasing Clausewitz, it seems that in Pakistan cricket is now becoming religious propaganda by other means.