Conor McGregor’s ugly war of words with Khabib Nurmagomedov has exposed a much bigger problem.
McGregor was widely condemned earlier this week when he posted a number of racist Twitter rants about Khabib and his wife.
In the most vile tweet, McGregor posted a photo of Nurmagomedov and his wife, who was wearing a hijab in the custom of the couple’s Muslim religion.
“Your wife is a towel mate,” he wrote, before deleting the post amid a wave of outrage.
The sporting world has been quick to condemn McGregor, but the full extent of his racist, derogatory ways are starting to be exposed.
As Yahoo Sports Combat columnist Kevin Iole writes:
“A large percentage of the wars that have been fought in human history were contested about religion.
“A person’s religion is a deeply personal choice, and they have regularly been willing to die to defend their beliefs.
“Taunting someone about his or her religion is simply lowlife behaviour. To do it as a means to somehow promote a sporting event is outrageous.”
‘Too often crosses the line’
But unfortunately, this isn’t the first time McGregor has done just that.
“Trash talk is a part of sports, and particularly of the fight game. McGregor is one of the best at it, and his talk so outraged then-featherweight champ Jose Aldo in 2014 that Aldo couldn’t wait to attack McGregor,” Iole continues.
“The Irishman has too often been willing to cross the line in his use of his trash talk, however. A number of his comments about Aldo and Brazil were edgy and pushed the boundaries if not fully crashed them over.
“McGregor made racist comments toward Floyd Mayweather when the two were promoting their 2017 boxing match in Las Vegas and has repeatedly taken shots at Nurmagomedov’s religion.”
Iole references Australian academic Susan Carland, who specialises in women in Islam.
“It’s uncanny how often people try to demonstrate their concern about the alleged oppression of Muslim women by humiliating them,” Carland wrote in the Guardian in 2017.
“Even finding out the details of my research findings doesn’t seem to deter them from baldly sharing opinions.”
Iole says: “Have no doubt: That’s what McGregor was attempting to do here.”
“He was in no way, shape or form raising a concern about the human rights of Muslim women. He was trying to humiliate Nurmagomedov and anger him into taking what would be a lucrative rematch.”
Tone deaf antics in wake of Christchurch massacre
However Karim Zidan of MMA website Bloody Elbow says McGregor’s comments could have far wider-reaching ramifications, pointing to the Christchurch terror attack as an example.
“McGregor’s religious attack on Nurmagomedov comes only weeks after the Christchurch mosque shootings, where 50 people were murdered by a gunman who livestreamed the attack,” Zidan writes.
“The terrorist attack, which took place at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, directly targeted Muslims in their house of worship.
“While McGregor is by no means responsible or involved in any way in the attack, his Twitter post — an insensitive attack on another fighter’s religion rooted in prejudice — normalises such religious insults to millions of fans who follow him across his social media platforms.”
Khaled A. Beydoun, a law professor and author of American Islamophobia: Understanding the Roots and Rise of Fear, continued that sentiment.
“Using racism to get a rematch is vile. Especially after 50 Muslims were killed in New Zealand,” Beydoun told Bloody Elbow.
“Conor has consistency wielded racism as a tactic to not only sell fights, but rile up his fan base and anger his opponents.
“We see Conor McGregor’s bigotry most brazen and unhinged with regard to Nurmagomedov…He ridiculed his Muslim practice and expression throughout their volatile fight promotion, and today, stoops to the lowest of lows by claiming that he’s married to a towel – an ugly gesture playing on the ‘towelhead’ slur attributed to Muslim women that don the Hijab.”
‘He’s made the hijab a source of jokes’
Zidan says McGregor has a duty of care to make sure his comments don’t spark ‘racist or xenophobic attacks’.
“Given McGregor’s influence and sheer global popularity, the fighter has a responsibility to ensure that his platform is not used as an outlet for racist or xenophobic attacks,” Zidan said.
“Instead, at a time when New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern has worn the hijab in a show of solidarity with Christchurch and the country’s Muslim community, McGregor has made the hijab the source of one of his jokes.
“McGregor has since tweeted that he wants to move forward with ‘my fans of all faiths and all backgrounds’ and that ‘all faiths challenge us to be our best selves.’ While the Irishman seems prepared to put the entire incident behind him, where does that leave the 1.5 billion Muslims he insulted?”
I want to move forward, with my fans of all faiths and all backgrounds.
All faiths challenge us to be our best selves.
It is one world and one for all ❤️
Now see you in the Octagon.
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) April 4, 2019