Papiss Cissé is a striker for Newcastle United and he is a muslim. He could also probably apply for an honorary doctorate in hypocrisy if such things existed. Newcastle’s new shirt sponsorship by the pay day loan firm Wonga has conflicted with Cissé’s belief, common under some interpretations of Sharia law, that Muslims must not benefit from lending money. The row has reached a stage where the player left the club’s pre-season tour of Portugal as he continued his anti-Wonga stance, although he’s clearly not anti-wonga per se as he earns a not undismal £40,000 a week.
Cissé has already been accused in some quarters of a cynical attempt to force a move from Newcastle for two reasons: Firstly he had no problem abnegating his religious beliefs before when the club strip was branded with financial services like Northern Rock and Virgin Money (he wore both kits). Secondly all the other muslim players at Newcastle of which there are quite a few, like Hatem Ben Arfa, have no problem wearing the new kit.
Then it was revealed that old Papiss enjoyed doing stuff like this in his spare time:
A spokesperson for Aspers Casino described Cisse as “an occasional visitor” who was “very well behaved and very welcome”, but would not confirm whether or not he placed any bets.
In Islam gambling is an even more grievous sin (or so I’ve been told anyway) than money lending. In the Holy Qur’an it is labelled as “Ithm al-kabir” or “a very great sin”, a description incidentally only used elsewhere for the practice of drinking (not rape or slavery or murder eh?) It is probably for the best that Cissé hasn’t been papped sporting a pint of Newcastle Brown Ale in the city centre somewhere.
The player’s actions have of course been granted with all the usual vehemence you’d expect. Newcastle city councillor Dipu Ahad had this nugget of wisdom to share with us:
“People will say, ‘look, this is Islam they can pick and choose whatever they want’, and Islam isn’t about picking and choosing”
Ahad is of course utterly wrong. Life and by extension, religion is about picking and choosing things, and the process easily makes hypocrites and liars of us all. A short quote from Dostoyevsky ought to be sufficient to cool the councillor’s umbrage:
But, finally, there are things that man is afraid of divulging even to himself and every decent man has quite an accumulation of them.
I’d love to find someone who could honestly say they were not the same as the above. We all do things we shouldn’t sometimes and often these are not things we want to share with anyone else. It is easy (and will no doubt be commonplace) to argue that Newcastle deserve better than such duplicitous treatment from one of their star players. The football cliché of choice would be that he has ‘sullied the shirt’ or whatever. Personally I’d argue that Cissé’s objection to Wonga is not entirely without justification as by all accounts they are a horrid company. Yet it is Cissé who has been damaged most in this affair, simply because he now appears a hypocrite to all the world, however noble his original intentions.
Papiss is no different to the vast majority of religious believers on earth. Only by being a product of Catholic education was I able to spend a great deal of time observing this ‘pick and choose’ phenomenon first hand, and in my time at school contradictions such as the one so aptly displayed by Newcastle’s want-away striker were as common as rain in Wales.
I’ve met many inspirational and intelligent Catholics and to a man and to a woman they were just as flawed as me, except that the flaw was dug even deeper into them by their poisonous subscription to a pointless faith. Some of these people, who professed to love everybody equally, would happily envisage condemning homosexuals to fiery torture sub specie aeternitatis. Religion makes it easy to believe and espouse two completely contradictory notions at the same time. Confront any believer with whatever obvious discrepancy of their faith you can find (there are thousands in Christianity alone) and you will be confronted with some wretched theodicy or breezily unsatisfying explanation. They may as well be as mute as a stone.
This kind of thing is not a good symptom for us humans. Samuel Butler claimed that life is a bit like playing the violin in public and learning the instrument as you go on. If we attempt to be the best we can be without recourse to the blood-flecked codicies and manuals of laughably primitive tribes, hypocrisy won’t disappear, but it will certainly be less pervasive as it is now amongst the parties of God. If Cissé had the good fortune to be an atheist he wouldn’t have been able to undermine his own cause quite so easily.