Usman Khawaja may become the first Muslim cricketer to play for Australia. This is how he views the prospect, according to the Sydney Morning Herald:
“I was born in Pakistan. I came here when I was about three and a half to Sydney,” Khawaja told reporters in Hobart last week after being named in Australia’s initial 17-man Ashes squad…Asked about the historic achievement as a Muslim Australian Test player, Khawaja attempted to tickle the question down to fine leg.
“For me just being selected to play for Australia and getting a baggy green will be the best thing in the world…None of the boys bring it (religion) up and the only time it ever comes up is from the media.”
Here’s the thing: minorities often have to grapple with wanting to be known solely for their talent, or for their status as a record-setting minority. (So, for instance, Denzel Washington, upon winning an Oscar, said something to the effect of, “Don’t say Black Actor Wins; say Actor Wins.”) Political candidates do this a lot as well; some women, for instance, will say it makes no difference; they hope voters don’t consider it as a plus or minus, etc. etc.
That’s a fine position to take, but I think certain historic firsts need to be reported and treated as such. I’d rather Khawaja said something like this: Yes, it’s an exciting prospect; I realize it says nothing about my onfield merit, which I will have to prove on debut, but I’m happy nevertheless to be the first in line.
And why? Because Australia used to have awful, just awful, policies towards minorities. Things have no doubt changed — notwithstanding the somewhat inflated accounts of Indian students attacked — but rather than trying to erase color/difference (“none of the boys bring it up”), I’d celebrate it.