Abdul Razzaq’s apology for demeaning Aishwarya Rai is not enough

Abdul Razzaq’s apology for demeaning Aishwarya Rai is not enough

The former cricketer's disrespectful analogy was disappointingly met with claps and laughter from fellow cricketers and the audience.
15 Nov, 2023

Former cricketer Abdul Razzaq has once again ignited controversy by making disparaging remarks, this time by using former Miss Universe and Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in an offensive analogy. His comments have left many feeling disgusted. His apology, which promptly followed social media backlash, is simply not good enough.

During a press conference on November 13 at the Marriott in Karachi promoting the upcoming ICC T20 World Cup 2024, Razzaq said the current cricket board setup needs to do more to polish and develop players before expecting them to perform. He highlighted the importance of intentions but used a gross analogy to give an example of this. “If your thought process is that you’ll marry Aishwarya Rai and expect a pious and virtuous child to be born, then that can never happen,” he said, implying that Aishwarya or a woman of her ‘character’ could not possibly have pious or virtuous children.

How he drew a connection between these two things is beyond our understanding but Razzaq’s reference to Rai to critique the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) efforts in player development is both ludicrous and insensitive. Why must he bring a woman down to highlight the failings of a group of men?

In a video clip of the press conference that has since gone viral, fellow cricketers Shahid Afridi, Umer Gul, Kamran Akmal, Misbah-ul-Haq, Saeed Ajmal, Younis Khan and Shoaib Malik laughed and clapped at Razzaq’s inappropriate analogy.

Razzaq’s comment is distasteful and showcases the inherent misogyny and sexism in both his language and everyone who laughed’s thoughts.

On November 14, Razzaq issued an apology aired on Samaa TV, stating, “In the press conference yesterday, we were talking about cricket, coaching, and intention. It was a slip of tongue, I wanted to give another example, but Aishwarya’s name slipped out of my mouth. I am sorry and I apologise.”

In the same video, Afridi acknowledged his lack of understanding of the comment at the time, saying, “I knew he had the mic and would say something controversial as he has a habit of engaging in banter. I didn’t understand but I laughed. When I came home, saw the video and understood, I realised how wrong it was and felt very bad about it. I will message him and instruct him to apologise to everyone”.

However, Afridi ‘instructing’ Razzaq to ask for forgiveness is not enough. He should apologise himself, after all he was one of the panelists who not only laughed but also clapped when the comment was made. If he was, as he claimed, unable to understand what was said, what was the point of laughing or clapping?

Gul also posted an apology on X. Making a similar statement, he said, “I didn’t realise the extent of the conversation which should not have happened.”

These two were the only ones who apologised for their reactions. Meanwhile, the remaining five panelists have been silent. It seems they either do not realise how problematic Razzaq’s ‘joke’ was or they feel their laughter was okay. Newsflash — it’s not.

However, it wasn’t just the players on stage laughing at Razzaq’s ‘joke’, it was also the audience. It seems as if no one understood that what he was saying he was wrong or felt strongly enough to call him out for his sexist joke.

Former cricket coach Waqar Younis, whom Razzaq respectfully referred to in an earlier part of the press conference, expressed disappointment and condemned Razzaq’s behaviour on X, joining a host of people who called him out. We’re glad he did so — men need to start calling out their friends over their sexism.

Apart from the disgusting nature of Razzaq’s comment, what also disgusted us was how many people sat there and laughed along with him. People who laugh along at sexist ‘jokes’ are as bad as the people who make them. Silence makes you complicit.

Coming to Razzaq’s apology — it falls short, especially given that this is not the first time he has been called out for his misogyny on public platforms. In June, during a TV show, he made comments about cricket player Nida Dar’s appearance. It once again took social media backlash for the cricketer to admit his wrongdoing. But how many times does social media need to criticise him for him to understand what’s wrong?

His justification — that it was a slip of — is weak. A slip of tongue doesn’t result in a sexist remark. How many slips of tongue are we to forgive from this man who keeps on making them?

As an adult and former national team representative, Razzaq must realise the responsibility that comes with his position. His analogy used referred to a woman in a belittling way to highlight the PCB’s negligence and that is not right. This kind of language only perpetuates sexist attitudes.

While Razzaq bears the responsibility for his words, the alarming reaction of the audience and fellow players, who found his sexist remarks amusing and worthy of applause, highlights a big issue in Pakistan — how we often condone sexism. This moment underscores the unfortunate reality of how casually and commonly women are used as butts of jokes or punchlines in our country. We as a society often shy away from acknowledging this unfortunate problem until it manifests itself through individuals like Abdul Razzaq. How many sexist ‘mistakes’ must he make before he grows up?