Pain and defiance of Mohammed Rafiq: Azeem's father joins protesters

The pain and defiance of Mohammed Rafiq: Azeem’s elderly father joins protesters outside Headingley amid racism scandal engulfing Yorkshire County Cricket Club

  • A racism storm engulfed Yorkshire CCC after allegations of discrimination 
  • An investigation into the language alleged to have been used was carried out
  • Azeem Rafiq is the player who instigated the investigation at the club  
  • His elderly father was outside Headingley on Saturday protesting with a crowd 

Visibly strained with a machine placed on a silver trolley, tubes loosely flowing to both nostrils, Mohammed Rafiq stands with a sign outside Headingley.

The sign reads ‘Racism is not banter’, but it’s the sign on the weary face of the 63-year-old that speaks louder.

It speaks of pain, trauma and defiance after his son Azeem came out 15 months ago with allegations of racial discrimination and bullying by his employer, Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

The case has dominated the news agenda following Cricinfo’s revelation this week that Yorkshire’s report into racism at the club concluded that the term ‘P***’ was used in ‘banter’, with Sportsmail revealing on Wednesday that Gary Ballance had directed it at Rafiq.

The following day, Michael Vaughan revealed in his Daily Telegraph column that he too is implicated in the report.

Mohammed is joined by daughters Amna, 26, Rahila, 24, and mother Rehana, 53, and a whole host of upset community members and extended family, in wind and rain to show solidarity to former England Under 19 captain Azeem.

Frustration seeps from the speeches addressed to the crowd, a feeling also evident among onlookers who have seen the club yards behind them fail to deal with such a sensitive case.

Azeem Rafiq’s father, Mohammed (pictured) joined the crowd outside Headingley 

Rafiq claimed he experienced racism during his stint at Yorkshire County Cricket Club

A number of people gathered outside Yorkshire’s home ground to have their say 

Dr Abdul Sheikh, 43, gave an impassioned speech on the importance of the case before slipping into the crowd.

‘Azeem Rafiq in my view is a hero,’ he says. ‘A brave warrior who faced severe adversity. He’s received threats from the far right, criticism from the community for making a stand but I’m immensely proud of him.

‘If I’m not here, then what’s the point? It’d all be in vain for what Azeem has fought for, so it’s to show solidarity and support to him and his family.

‘I fought racism all my life: the P-word, etc. I had to speak in front of people to show racism is not casual banter. It has major effects on people’s life in the world of work. It can already be hard for ethnic minorities in this country, never mind if they face xenophobia and racism.’

Great Horton Church club secretary and former Yorkshire Cricket Foundation employee Taj Butt, 63, is also here to show his support. ‘It just shows how strong the feeling in the community is that we are prepared to turn out and voice our anger at the club,’ he said. ‘It’s been 15 months since Azeem made the complaint and the club have been looking to sweep it under the carpet.

‘You usually go to Headingley to watch county or international cricket, which brings a lot of pleasure to a lot of people. But coming here having to demonstrate an injustice doesn’t seem right.’

Yunus Lunat, 54, had also joined the protest. ‘I practise employment law,’ he said. ‘I get these sorts of cases on my desk and most people don’t have the resources or strength to fight, particularly institutions of this nature. This is just the tip of the iceberg in workplaces.’

The investigation conducted by Yorkshire County Cricket Club has been widely criticised 




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