Azeem Rafiq not expecting ‘quick’ forgiveness from Jewish people over anti-Semitic messages

Azeem Rafiq says he does not expect “quick” forgiveness from the Jewish community over anti-Semitic messages he sent in 2011 but hopes it does not “derail the cause” of anti-racism.

He had spoken of his experiences of racism at Yorkshire this week.

Speaking to Jewish News,external-link the former cricketer said he hoped Jewish people could “see that I am genuinely sorry”.

The Facebook messages, first reported by the Times,external-link were sent between Rafiq and another cricketer.

Rafiq said on Thursday he was “deeply ashamed” of his comments and reiterated this to Jewish News, adding he felt “very angry” with himself.

“I’ve always said that if you apologise, you should get a second chance,” he said.

“But obviously, I think in all cases it is for the victims to decide that.

“I don’t think I’m in any position to be asking the Jewish community on how they feel.

“All I can do is do my best, to show them that I am sorry and take time to understand and learn and educate myself to make sure that I’m improving myself.

“I don’t expect it to be quick, but in time I hope the Jewish community can forgive me.”

Rafiq has spoken powerfully about his experiences of racist abuse when he played for Yorkshire from 2008-14 and 2016-18.

He first spoke out in September 2020, claiming “institutional racism” at Yorkshire left him close to taking his own life.

Speaking to a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee on Tuesday, Rafiq described English cricket as “institutionally racist” and that issues he faced at Yorkshire are widespread in the domestic game.

He told BBC Sport that he is “determined” that sharing his experiences will be the moment “not only sport but society as a whole” moved in a different direction.

Rafiq said he hoped to build a bridge between the Jewish and Muslim communities.

“We could all unite together, sit on one table and actually fight for the cause that I’m fighting for,” he said.

“Hopefully, this doesn’t derail the cause, because whatever happens to me in a personal capacity is not that important.

“The cause is bigger.”

Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said on Thursday: “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.”

BBC News

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