An interview with Hammad Miah and a post by Alfie Burden

I usually stay away from politics in this blog but today I feel that I must make an exception.

Shamoon Hafez from BBC has interviewed Hamad Miah. Here is this interview:

George Floyd death: Hammad Miah on being called a ‘shoebomber’

By Shamoon Hafez
Hammad MiahHammad Miah grew up in Hertford and his family hail from Bangladesh

Warning: this piece contains offensive language

“A guy called me a shoebomber once. That was new to me and I was laughing about it because I didn’t know what he was going on about. It was only afterwards, when reading up on it, did it become an insult.” 

As Hammad Miah prepares to compete in the Championship League on Sunday, he speaks to BBC Sport about his own experience of racism following the death of George Floyd in the USA. 

Floyd, an unarmed black man who screamed “I can’t breathe” while his neck was pinned under an officer’s knee, has become a symbol for change with the #BlackLivesMatter movement that has sparked huge anti-racism protests across the country.

This week, sports stars including Serena Williams, Paul Pogba and Lewis Hamilton have added their voices. And there was a display of protest from snooker world number 75 Alfie Burden, who took a knee before his match against Ryan Day at the Championship League on Wednesday.

The concerns raised are all too familiar for Miah, who takes the 64th and final spot at the event in Milton Keynes, host to snooker’s first tournament since the season was halted because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I did have problems growing up; I faced a lot of racism,” Miah said. “But that has shaped me into the person I am today. 

“It is because of Islam that I have calmed down a little bit. That experience of being called a Paki or taking the piss out of me because I am Muslim was really tough.”

Judd TrumpMiah faced current world number one and world champion Judd Trump in the first round of the 2015 UK Championship

In a open and honest interview, Miah talks about:

  • Sympathising with those rioting in the USA to make their feelings known
  • How he would “100% be in a gang” if he still lived in London
  • Bare-knuckle fighting with a fellow snooker player
  • Being harassed by police when growing up

‘When I was growing up, the only way out was fighting’

Americans have defied curfews in cities and the threat of military action from President Donald Trump to take to the streets in their tens of thousands, with violence spreading in some parts.

“When I was growing up, the only way out was fighting,” Miah said. “Slowly people started to realise that what they [racists] were saying was wrong.

“The reason why people keep getting away with it is because they don’t get punished. Islam is not about violence – I understand that now as I have matured as an adult – but that was what we grew up with.

“Some people have no idea what we go through and that is why we can relate to this #BlackLivesMatter movement taking place at the moment. We get it because we feel discriminated against all the time.”

‘I feel I could have become a boxer’

Miah, whose family are from Bangladesh, was born in London and later moved to Hertford. It was his dad who first took him to a snooker club, spotting the talent after his son made a century break at 13 and won amateur tournaments at 16.

Now 26, he is one of only two British Asian players on the 128-man tour, the other being Welshman Kishan Hirani.

Looking back on those early days, going to the snooker club with his dad, Miah says he used to “enjoy it”. But while the sport brought him “contentment and peace, taking my mind off a lot of things”, he pin-points his early experiences as a reason why he has failed to fulfil his potential.

“What happened in my childhood plays a big part in my snooker and is probably the reason I get so angry when playing,” said Miah, who is ranked 96 in the world. “It is my character and I feel I could have become a boxer. 

“It is not good for my well-being because it plays a part in the house and those around me. If I was still living in London, I would have 100% been in a gang. 

“The boys that racially abused me growing up, I had a rage and anger towards them. I did not see them for a couple of years and then I got a bit bigger so if I bumped into them I was going to slap them hard.”

Hammad MiahMiah is ranked number 96 in the world

‘I was offered a bareknuckle fight for £20’

Miah explains how he once had a run-in with a fellow player at a tournament in a holiday park in Wales.

“A couple of other players were around too and he started acting up and offered me a bareknuckle fight for £20 – I took his money off him,” he said.

Miah also recalls suffering harassment from the police.

“Growing up, I remember the police would give me and my black friend more trouble than the rest of the group,” he said.

“Once I got pulled over in my car by two separate police officers in the space of five minutes. They asked what I was doing here in Hertford, I told them I live here and asked whether they pulled me over because I was Asian.

“People say it is worse in America but it is just as bad here. If our coppers carried guns, there would be so many deaths and I am thankful they don’t.”

So how do you solve the issue of racism?

“People that are silent, the people that are trying to justify other crimes or responding with #WhiteLivesMatter, they are the problem,” Miah said. “There is always someone out there trying to justify something inhumane.

“At school, we learn all sorts of stuff and no-one is born racist. If they taught us properly about race and religion, things could change.

“These protests will make a slight change but nothing major; the change starts from the beginning.

“Teach everyone how to love each other, how to care for each other no matter the colour of the skin. We all bleed the same.”

I have known Hammad for years, well before he turned pro. The man I know is kind and respectful to everyone around. He’s religious, yes, but nothing like the kind of person the clichés and prejudices describe muslims. I’m a woman, yet never felt like he treated me any differently for it. The same goes for Rory McLeod. A lot has been made about Rory not shaking hands with women. Rory has always been very polite, respectful and friendly with me. I have seen him around his children, boy and girl, they are the apple of his eyes, and they are ongoing happy, much loved kids.

Hammad is right. We are all the same, no matter our skin colour, our gender, our background or our faith. Fundamentally, we all want the same things: a peaceful life, being surrounded by people we love and who love us, providing for our families, and spending good time with those dear to us. It’s that simple really. And eventually, we all die, and take nothing with us, no money, no power, no fame.

I also feel the need to share this Facebook post by Alfie Burden:

See people talking some utter garbage on here currently, small minds and buried racism issues….
People putting statuses up almost justifying the murder of George Floyd because he had a rap sheet …. so that’s ok is it to publicly slaughter somebody is it because he’s got a criminal record, get a fucking grip….

People having a pop at people for taking the knee etc , I’d take the knee all day long to protest against racism ,to repeat it’s absolutely no place in our society, let’s remember the George Floyd situation shouldn’t be turned into how good or bad a person he was…. it’s about what the motive was to publicly kill a defenceless man who was handcuffed…
All rioting in London has no place in our society, we are not America, we don’t have as big a problem in regards our diabolical policing as they do in my opinion, the police in our country do a fantastic job and don’t deserved to be attacked it’s disgusting and anybody doing this needs to be locked up…. if you want to protest, protest peacefully….
Finally I took a knee in the snooker tournament against racism , the George Floyd public murder brought this to the forefront let’s not get it twisted and justify what the policeman done.
All lives matter clearly, hopefully society can start to all respect each other whatever their skin colour or religion is, after all we are all human beings.

I felt it necessary to post this after reading some real hate and garbage on here and also receiving some abuse for taking a knee on live tv against racism, although I must say in the main I’ve had positive feedback…

Take care of each other.

The end.

Alf X

Alfie also is right. Violence isn’t the answer. It only triggers more violence, more pain, more hate.

Yes, I’m from the flower power generation, I turned 15 in 1969. I’m 65 now and still “talking back my generation”. We wanted change, we wanted freedom … we failed. Crass populism, à la Hitler or Mussolini, is back in full force, and political correctness is the new way to gag people. When you can’t use certain words, alarm bells should ring, because it means that you are not allowed to acknowledge certain realities for what they truly are. Racism is on of those words.

5 thoughts on “An interview with Hammad Miah and a post by Alfie Burden

  1. My first thought upon reading your treatise was that, far from, “satisfying my curiosity”, it rather confirmed my suspicions (‘Trump Derangement Syndrome’ springs to mind).

    You seem capable of holding contradictory views (if not principles) based on a mish mash of feminist/secular/atheist ideology. My conclusion is that, quite contrary to disavowing Religion, you are in fact zealously religious, even accepting obvious contradictions as a matter of faith; you do this by drawing from an ever-changing hierarchy of victimhood (for example, it’s ok for Muslim men to treat women as second class citizens so long as they are nice).

    Having said all that, I do appreciate your taking the time to respond in detail, as it is not often that I get such a considered response from a feminist. Sincere thanks.

    • You don’t know me and you are completely wrong in your assessment, especially regarding religion. That’s all I’ll say and I suggest that, as far as this blog is concerned, you stick at commenting on the snooker in the future instead of trying to psychoanalyse me or anyone else.

  2. So, you are a feminist who is okay with men refusing to shake hands with you because of your gender (so long as they are Muslim), you believe President Trump (I assume that you are alluding to) to be similar to Hitler, and you think the ‘R’ word is taboo (despite it being repeated ad nauseam in the press and on TV)?

    BTW, I am not looking for–or indeed need–an argument. Rather, I am curious as to how you can reconcile such levels of cognitive dissonance in your own mind? Perhaps the answer is that you cannot reconcile these contradictions and are merely attempting to deflect the issues that you clearly have towards a convenient target, just like the so-called ‘protesters’, in fact.

    • Yes Trump is similar to Hitler. Hitler too was about making Germany great again (after the humiliation of WW1 defeat), he too was about national, racial and cultural alleged superiority, he too was deflecting blame and responsibility onto “the others” and he too was a psychopath who would listen to nobody, and couldn’t deal with different opinions. Regarding racism, I note that you avoided using the word, exactly illustrating my point. And may I remind you that quite recently, a BBC journalist got in trouble for stating that some of the things President Trump said were racist, which they plainly were. Finally, yes, I am a feminist, in that I believe that women are equal to men, that they can achieve the same things in life. They don’t need “guidance” or “protection” beyond the protection every human being deserves. I also firmly believe that women have a responsibility in their own fate and future. If you don’t stand for yourself, you will be used, no matter your gender. And, I don’t see men as the enemy. They have their own struggles, plenty of them, different but no less painful. Regarding religion, I’m a non believer and, to me, religion has only too often been a instrument in the hands of those in power, to control and polarise the masses. But when it comes to individuals, I don’t judge them of their faith or lack of it. I have known Rory for years and he’s a good and honourable man. Never did he give me the impression that he saw women as inferior beings. If he feels uneasy about physical contact with women outside the family circle, I will accept that, especially as, whenever he has to deal with a “new” female referee, he goes and talks to the person, explaining his own stance and seeking to agree with her a way to show his respect without actual physical contact. As far as I know, this has never been an issue.
      I hope I satisfied your curiosity about my dissonances …

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