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‘Ashamed’ Azeem Rafiq apologises after anti-Semitic messages emerge

Rafiq has won widespread praise for his resolve in highlighting the issue of racial discrimination in cricket.

Image: House of Commons

RACISM WHISTLEBLOWER AZEEM Rafiq has issued an apology after it was revealed he had sent anti-Semitic messages to a fellow player more than a decade ago.

Former Yorkshire spinner Rafiq has won widespread praise for his resolve in highlighting the issue of racial discrimination in cricket and appeared before a parliamentary select committee this week to lift the lid on his own bitter experiences.

He pointed the finger at a number of high-profile individuals during his Westminster appearance, but on Thursday he was forced to confront his own past shortcomings when The Times uncovered an exchange with former Warwickshire and Leicestershire player Ateeq Javid.

In it, Rafiq makes offensive remarks about an unidentified person. Having reviewed the messages, Rafiq confirmed they are authentic and said he is furious at his own actions.

“I was sent an image of this exchange from early 2011 today. I have gone back to check my account and it is me – I have absolutely no excuses,” he said on Twitter.

“I am ashamed of this exchange and have now deleted it so as not to cause further offence. 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.”

He added in a later tweet: “At no point will I ever try and defend the indefensible. For those I have hurt I am sincerely sorry. I will continue to front up and own any more mistakes I have made.”

The development is likely to be a source of deep embarrassment to Rafiq, now 30.

Board of Deputies of British Jews president Marie Van Der Zyl said 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.”

And Claudia Mendoza, co-chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, said on Twitter: “There’s no doubt that this is massively awkward for Azeem Rafiq but he’s taken full ownership, apologised, and undoubtedly – through his own experiences – learnt a lot about racism since then.”

Rafiq this month settled an employment tribunal with Yorkshire but has vowed to stand alongside other victims of abuse and use his platform to become the “voice of the voiceless”.

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Speaking to BBC Sport after his appearance in front of the parliamentary DCMS committee, he told victims of discrimination: “Whether anyone else stands by you or not, I’ll stand by you. Hopefully people will be believed and heard a lot more and people can take confidence from that.”

He also predicted that his case would lead to the “floodgates” opening and that the number of cricketers coming forward to tell their stories could run into the thousands.

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Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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