Cricket racism target Azeem Rafiq 'ashamed' of anti-Semitic slurs

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Pictured here, Azeem Rafiq gives testimony into the racism scandal that's rocked English cricket.
Azeem Rafiq gave emotional testimony into the racism scandal that's rocked English cricket. Pic: AAP

Former cricketer Azeem Rafiq, whose allegations of racism have rocked the sport in England, has now been forced to apologise for his own questionable actions.

Rafiq, who is a proud Muslim, was widely praised for giving a disturbing account of the racism he suffered during two spells with Yorkshire to a parliamentary committee on Tuesday, having previously said the abuse had led him to contemplate taking his own life.

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The former off-spinner, whose case has led to further revelations at other county clubs, told the committee: "Do I believe I lost my career to racism? Yes, I do."

He also mentioned a number of former team-mates, including ex-England internationals including Gary Ballance, still at Yorkshire, had used racial slurs towards him.

On Monday, current England spinner Adil Rashid joined ex-Pakistan Test player Rana Naved-ul-Hasan in alleging former England captain Michael Vaughan had said in front of a group of Yorkshire players of Asian ethnicity in 2009: "Too many of you lot, we need to do something about it."

Vaughan has "categorically" denied making the comment but Rafiq said Tuesday: "Michael might not remember it... three of us, Adil, myself and Rana remember it."

However, Rafiq has now found himself implicated in the racism furore after The Times newspaper uncovered messages sent to former Warwickshire and Leicestershire player Ateeq Javid, in which Rafiq is seen to make disparaging comments about an unnamed Jewish person.

The anti-Semitic messages were reportedly sent when Rafiq was a teenager, with the 30-year-old expressing his sincerest apologies and remorse over the scandal.

Seen here, Azeem Rafiq at a hearing into the English cricket racism scandal.
Azeem Rafiq has been forced to apologise for anti-Semitic remarks he made as a teenager. Pic: AAP

Rafiq tweeted: "I have gone back to check my account and it is me - I have absolutely no excuses.

"I am ashamed of this exchange and have now deleted it so as not to cause further offence," the 30-year-old Pakistan-born cricketer added.

"I was 19 at the time and I hope and believe I am a different person today. I am incredibly angry at myself and I apologise to the Jewish community and everyone who is rightly offended by this."

Board of Deputies of British Jews president Marie van der Zyl responded by saying in a statement: "Azeem Rafiq has suffered terribly at the hands of racists in cricket so he will well understand the hurt this exchange will cause to Jews who have supported him.

"His apology certainly seems heartfelt and we have no reason to believe he is not completely sincere."

British government warns of 'nuclear option'

The fallout for Yorkshire, one of English cricket's oldest and most prestigious counties, over the scandal has been devastating, with sponsors making a mass exodus and the club suspended from hosting lucrative international matches.

But Rafiq warned Yorkshire, whose chairman and chief executive have both resigned, could not move forward until head coach Andrew Gale and director of cricket Martyn Moxon had left the Headingley-based club.

Gale is himself currently suspended pending investigations over a historical anti-Semitic tweet, with former England batsman Moxon signed off with a stress-related illness.

Rafiq accused Gale of constant racial abuse and Moxon of systematic bullying, including an outburst on Rafiq's first day back following the stillbirth of his son.

The British government this week warned English cricket's ruling body it faced the "nuclear option" of independent regulation amid widespread criticism of how it had dealt with Rafiq's revelations.

England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive Tom Harrison, who also testified to the same committee as Rafiq on Tuesday, insisted his organisation was "fit for purpose" as both the promoter and regulator of the game.

But sports minister Nigel Huddleston warned that if the ECB "don't get their act together, then we have the nuclear option of legislating in order to potentially bring in an independent regulator".

Harrison had to face an ECB board meeting on Thursday and will come under renewed scrutiny during a a wider "all-game" gathering of its 41 constituent members — including the 18 first-class counties and MCC — at the Oval on Friday, where the Rafiq scandal will be discussed.

But were Harrison to be ousted, it would leave a leadership vacuum after ECB chairman Ian Watmore resigned last month following the controversial decision to call off an England tour of Pakistan scheduled for October.

with agencies

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