(UPDATED) Lovable lunk/Leafs centre Nazem Kadri, who wouldn’t hurt a fly despite playing the violent game of NHL hockey, is said to be one of only
two Muslims in that league. He’s already told us how tricky hockey practice can be while fasting for Ramadan. (Kadri got a special dispensation from his imam. What’s his name, by the way? Perhaps we should look him up.)
Here’s something else Kadri should tell us: Whether or not he’d accept a gay teammate.
Saying you’re OK with gays on your team, or on any team, or in sports generally, is the hip new thing to do. In hockey, we can thank the Burkes and their oddly-named You Can Play Project, which has showcased dozens of players and teams as they record uncomfortable videos expressing stilted endorsement of gay and lesbian (worse: “LGBT”) teammates and players. Everyone’s so tolerant, even accepting. The delivery is terrible across the board but I believe every single one of them.
Last month I read a series of articles – when there’s a cluster, it’s like smoke; you know there’s also fire – about how Kadri has improved enough that he’s about to get real ice time. (Beyond 21 minutes.) If he’s that interesting, then let’s scrutinize him further.
For you see, Muslims are homophobic until proven otherwise – even Canadian-born Muslims. Muslims aren’t the only ones who hate us, but they tend to be the only religious homophobes who want us dead. (Pushed off the top of the tallest building in the settlement, Ayaan Hirsi Ali told me. In Toronto to date, that’s been a purely symbolic pronouncement. But unlike Roman Catholic promises that only God could keep, the Islamic diktat is one that real-life Muslims, especially gangs of fit young guys, can actually make happen.)
If Kadri wants to be a role model – after getting drafted, he’d barely hauled on a Leafs jersey before claiming already to be one – then he has to man up and confront Muslim homophobic stereotypes head-on. His whole job is about head-on confrontations, so this one will be a piece of cake.
Surely “Naz” could record his own You Can Play video
It would be just as uptight and excruciating as the rest of them, but it would mean more, don’t you think?
Wouldn’t it be more than symbolic? It would amount to a unilateral nonaggression pact from a very fit young man who inspires others like him, hence can pass on a message that hating us, or beating the shit out of us with hockey sticks, “isn’t cool.”
Via its contact form, I suggested that the Project recruit Kadri, but didn’t hear back. (That’s inconclusive. I follow the Burkes’ Twitters, and they’ve explained that these things have to incubate, early discussions have to stay private, and release dates have to be staggered.) But Kadri’s agent, Brian MacDonald, didn’t bother getting back to me either, and I don’t find that inconclusive. MacDonald wasted no time distancing Nazem Kadri from his uncle Hiesam after the latter faced criminal charges. They’re separate individuals and MacDonald was right to point that out, though he has an amateur’s grasp of defamation law. Still, it isn’t the only issue that warrants a response.
I don’t mind picking on a public figure like a professional athlete, especially one who claims to be a guiding light for our diverse Muslim communities, to put it in my terms. Unless and until Kadri does what so many other hockey players have done and tells us he’d sincerely accept a gay teammate, I have no cause to doubt the stereotype of the homophobic Muslim male. Though it surely is the case anyway, I want Kadri to show us he has less of a temper off the ice than he does on it.
Kadri plays for a team whose heart used to be situated at the south end of Toronto’s gay village. He has to prove he lives in the same century we do. I will not tolerate Muslim homophobia. The onus is on him, not us. Muslims have to adapt to us.
I will race to be the very first to congratulate Kadri if he does what I ask. And I will mean it.
(2013.04.14) Last week, the NHL announced a “partnership” with the You Can Play Project. So now there’s one less excuse.