"Difference of religion breeds more quarrels than difference of politics."
--Wendell Phillips, 1860
In a competition with Pat Robertson for proving how stupid one can be, it's hard to win--but Dubai, Iran and Pakistan gave it a good try. Pat's entry into the "Can you believe how stupid I am" competition was his explanation that the Haitian earthquake resulted from a pact with the devil made by the Haitians to rid themselves of the French. The legal system in Dubai, a diplomatic reception in Spain and cricket in Pakistan were Robertson's competitors.
Until the most recent event, Dubai had been in the news because of its near brush with financial death that preceded by just a few weeks the opening in Dubai of the tallest building in the world. Its entry in this contest had nothing to do with that. Its entry came courtesy of its legal system. Reports in assorted media described the plight of an unmarried British couple: a 23-year-old woman of Pakistani descent who, with her 43-year old male traveling companion, traveled to Dubai for New Year's Eve. During the visit, the woman was raped by a hotel employee in a public bathroom. The couple promptly reported the assault to the police who, being detectives, realized that this unmarried couple was sharing a hotel room. Ignoring the claim of rape, officials charged them both with having illegal sex and drinking alcohol in an unauthorized location. Given the seriousness of those offenses, their passports were taken and they were told they may not return home until the investigation is completed. One report says that police are skeptical that a rape occurred. Dubai police apparently think life for tourists in Dubai is so dull that the couple made up the story in order to make their trip more interesting.
If the couple is ultimately convicted, they face up to six years in prison The director of the police station that arrested them explained to Gulf News that: "Our rules are clear in the U.A.E.; Illegal drinking and sexual intercourse is considered an offense, so a case was filed against the couple as well." (There are almost certainly circumstances in Dubai when sexual intercourse is not considered an offense. People planning on traveling there should not rely on the preceding sentence but should do their own investigation into the rules covering this activity.)
For our next example we travel to Spain. The question presented by events in that country is what happened at a diplomatic reception given by the king and queen for ambassadors and ministers. It involved a handshake or a non-handshake. One of the ministers in attendance was Stas Misezhnikov, Israel's tourism minister. Another was Iran's tourism minister, Hamid Baghaei. According to Misezhnikov's assistant, the two ministers shook hands at the reception. Iran, which, as we have seen time and again, can get excited over the most peculiar things, was furious. Its tourism ministry issued a statement in which it said that the suggestion of a handshake was "an ugly and false rumor." It went on to say that Iranian officials present at the reception "never encountered Israeli officials in any form," thus putting to rest any thought that its minister might have had contact with some disembodied form of Israeli floating around the room in spectral fashion. To reaffirm the preposterousness of a handshake, the statement said Iran considered "the permanent struggle against this international pariah its divine duty."
Although Iran may have hoped that statement would earn it the stupidity prize, it was competing with Pakistan. That kafuffle involved cricket rather than a handshake. One of the big cricket events that takes place each year is the cricket tournament in India sponsored by the Indian Premier League. Prior to the tournament, there is an auction in which players are selected to participate in the tournament. The winning teams in the tournament make a great deal of money. Pakistan's players are acknowledged to be the champions of the kind of cricket that is played in the tournaments and in years gone by have been chosen to participate. Their acknowledged prowess notwithstanding, this year none of the Pakistanis was chosen by any of the eight teams of which the Indian Premier League is comprised.
That failure was almost as offensive to Pakistan as the nonexistent handshake was to Iran. Pakistan's interior minister, Rehman Malik says the failure to choose Pakistani players had nothing to do with their skill but, instead, was a diplomatic statement. He said, "The manner in which the players were insulted showed that India is not serious about the peace process with Pakistan." He said that he was convinced that the Indian government had put pressure on owners of the teams not to bid on any Pakistani players. S.M. Krishna, India's foreign minister responded saying: "Government has nothing to do with I.P.L. on selection of players and various exercises that are connected with it."
As I said at the outset, Pat Robertson hasn't cornered the market on nutty behavior. He has no reason to be ashamed of his effort, however.
Christopher Brauchli can be e-mailed at email@example.com. For political commentary see his Web page at http://humanraceandothersports.com