Public praying in a game of cricket is not true prayer, but power and hegemony
By Pandita Dr Indrani Rampersad (Vedic/Hindu Pandita, Fellow in Advanced Studies, Hindu University of America, Journalist, and Women’s Activist. Email: [email protected])
Sportspersons using public spaces to pray loudly in public is more an expression of power than a search for spiritual inspiration. This is particularly annoying when it takes place in countries that swear by equality, justice, and secularism, for example.
Nicholas Pooran’s determination to announce his Christian identity to all gathered to see a cricket game is on par with those Muslim cricketers who do the same. This is a power play in global politics. The hegemony of Christianity and Islam is gaining more visibility in these common public spaces.
Recently, the United States Supreme Court decided in favour of a high school football coach who insisted on kneeling and praying (always Christian) on the field. It was a split decision, with conservatives winning on their appeal to the First Amendment rights in the US Constitution. They saw the Constitution as allowing for mutual respect and tolerance, and not censorship and suppression for views that are religious or not.
Have you ever heard prayers of other religions in these same spaces? So, what kind of prayers should players be allowed to say publicly in public events? Should they be curtailed to their personal religion, or should we have representatives from all religions stand up and say a prayer, including the audiences?
The matter of the hegemonic exertion of power raises its ugly head. It is part of our colonial legacy, and folks like Nicholas Pooran continue that legacy.
Have you ever heard the First Peoples of any country get the time and space to pray in their native tongues at any public event? I don’t think it has ever happened. Yet, all those who came after them and took their lands and destroyed their religion and culture are allowed to do so freely. We so unwittingly embrace the practice of hegemonic forces of religion to dictate what kind of prayer is acceptable in public space.
In earlier colonial times, we could not pray as First Peoples, Hindus or Muslims or Africans in schools and public spaces in the Caribbean. The church/state nexus demanded only a Christian prayer. Some of that has been changing, but it is still far away from being equal, just and fair.
The public spaces in which prayer is made have now become sites of conflict and hegemony. Some religions are demanding public space for praying as a matter of right, and to hell (literally) with the rights of those who do not pray or believe as they do. We all have basic human rights to hold in mutual respect if we wish to live in peace and harmony in a rapidly diversified global world, but when one religion is allowed to dominate while others are left out, then that kind of space is not just, fair and equal.
Therefore, I would suggest that cricketing boards address this issue of hegemony and inequality, and stop their players from making religious and political statements in places meant for sports. Audiences come to enjoy a game, and not be pressured by the hegemony of fanatic religious persons.
Finally, I encourage Pooran and others like him to say their prayers and draw inspiration from them, but do so in silence – within. Praying aloud in these situations is not true spiritual communion, but more akin to political action, in my humble opinion. In other words, such persons seek to promote their views and religion above those of the others. Whatever happened to the old customs of enjoying a game without these religious and political intrusions? Let true mutual respect, peace, love, and harmony reign, instead of personal and religious hegemonic power.