Friday, June 29, 2007

Muslim Militants Threaten Tennis Doubles Partners

Some people think neutral activities such as sports can bring political, cultural and religious enemies together. Sounds good, right?

If you've ever wondered, in the spirit of Rodney King - "why can't we all just get along?" the following story will answer that question.

LONDON, June 28 (Reuters) - India's Sania Mirza hopes her decision to renew her doubles partnership with Israel's Shahar Peer at Wimbledon does not stir up another religious storm.

"We're playing tennis, we're not making statements. We're just here to play tennis and we're here to perform and be the best we can be," the Indian number one said on Thursday.

"Me and Shahar are playing just like the way me and (Eva) Birnerova played the French Open, just like the way I played with anyone else the last six weeks. It doesn't make any statement."

The last time Mirza, a Muslim, joined forces with Peer at the 2005 Japan Open, their association was short-lived. Under pressure from militants furious over a Muslim and a Jew playing together, Mirza called for some time out.

She hopes their second stab at success will be remembered more for their on-court exploits.
"We've grown up together. We're great friends. So we said, why not?" said Mirza, who comes from the southern Indian city of Hyderabad.

"We were both very lucky to find each other because it's someone who suits each other's game. I have a big forehand, she has a big backhand. We've done well in the past. We really don't care whether she's from Israel or I'm from Pakistan. At the end of the day it matters whether we win a match or not."

Doubles partnerships between Muslim and Jewish players have not gone down too well in the past. In 2002, Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi was threatened with a suspension from Pakistan's tennis federation when he entered the Wimbledon men's doubles with Israel's Amir Hadad.

The partnership won the duo a humanitarian award from the organisers of men's tennis but Mirza does not want any similar recognition. "I'm here to play tennis and so is she. That's the end of that. It has nothing to do with anything else," she said.

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