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Why Usman Khawaja won’t be wearing shoes featuring human rights slogans for Palestinians in Gaza | Cricket News

Australian cricketer Usman Khawaja has decided to abort his plan to have sporting messages of support for Palestinians in Gaza written on his shoes for the first Test against Pakistan at Perth’s Optus Stadium, which will start from Thursday.

The Pakistan-born opener had shown off messages like “Freedom is a human right” and “All lives are equal”, written on his playing shoes in the colours of the Palestinian flag, during Australian cricket team’s training session on Tuesday ahead of the first Test against Pakistan.

When asked by journalists if he was planning on sporting those messages on his shoes for the match against Pakistan, he had replied in the affirmative. But Australian captain Pat Cummins told journalists on Wednesday that the player has had a change of heart. “He had some words on his shoes. I think it’s one of our strongest points of our team that everyone has his own personal views and thoughts… I chatted to Ussie (Khawaja) about it briefly today. I don’t think his intention was to make too big of a fuss, but we support him. He said he won’t be (wearing them),” Cummins told journalists.

He went on to add: “I think he had ‘all lives are equal’. I don’t think that’s very divisive. I don’t think anyone can have too many complaints about that. All lives are equal. I support that. (But) I think it drew the attention to the ICC rules … which I don’t know if he was across them beforehand.”

What changed Khawaja’s mind about wearing shoes with messages of support for people in Gaza?

It appears that Khawaja was reminded by Cricket Australia about the International Cricket Council rules.

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While Cricket Australia said on Wednesday that they backed Khawaja’s right to express his support for the people of Gaza, they went on to add: “We support the right of our players to express personal opinions, but the ICC has rules in place which prohibit the display of personal messages which we expect the players to uphold.”

According to the figures made available by Gaza’s health ministry, Israel’s assault on Gaza, which started in response to the October 7 attacks carried out by Hamas, has killed at least 18,205 Palestinians.

On his social media accounts, Khawaja has been vocal about the issue., Recently, he shared a video on Instagram from UNICEF with the comment: “Do people not care about innocent humans being killed? Or is it the colour of their skin that makes them less important? Or the religion they practice? These things should be irrelevant if you truly believe that ‘we are all equal.’”

What has Khawaja said about the issue?

Taking to his social media in the aftermath of the ICC ban, Khawaja said, “I’ve noticed what I’ve written on my shoes has caused a little bit of a stir. I won’t say much, I don’t need to,” he said. “Is freedom not for everyone? Are all lives not equal? To me personally, it doesn’t matter what race, religion or culture you are. Let’s be honest about it. If me saying all lives are equal has resulted in people being offended, to the point where they’re calling me up, and telling me, well isn’t that the bigger problem? What I’ve written on my shoes isn’t political. I’m not taking sides. Human life to me is equal. One Jewish life is equal to one Muslim life is equal to one Hindu life and so on. I’m just speaking up for those who don’t have a voice.”

The Australian opener furthermore said, “When I see thousands of innocent children dying, without any repercussions, or remorse I imagined my two girls. What if this was them? No one chooses where they’re born. And then I see the world turn their backs on them. My heart can’t take it. I already feel my life wasn’t equal to others when I was growing up. But luckily for me, I never lived in a world where that lack of equality was life or death. The ICC have told me that I can’t wear my shoes on field because they believe it’s a political statement under their guidelines. I don’t believe it is so – it’s a humanitarian appeal.”

What does the ICC Code of Conduct say?

The ICC, in its Code of Conduct, prohibits cricketers from wearing, displaying or conveying messages through arm bands or other items on clothing or equipment without prior approval. Messages related to political, religious or racial activities or causes are barred.

The ICC’s latest regulations state: “In determining whether a message is for a ‘political, religious or racial cause’, the starting point is that the ICC and its members acknowledge and agree that cricket should be used as a tool to bring people and communities around the world together and not as a platform to draw attention to potentially divisive political issues, rhetoric or agendas.”

Have other cricketers tried writing messages on their equipment or taking a stand on the field?

Almost 10 years back, England batsman Moeen Ali was disallowed by the ICC from sporting wristbands which had the slogans “Save Gaza” and “Free Palestine”. Ali wanted to wear the wristbands in a Test against India in Southampton in 2014. It was initially approved by the England and Wales Cricket Board. But the use of the wristbands in the Test were later banned by ICC match referee for the contest, Australia’s David Boon.

It must be noted that when India took on Pakistan in a T20 World Cup encounter, the Men in Blue had taken the knee as a sign of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

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