I’ve had the privilege of visiting Gallipoli for Anzac Day on several occasions. While there, conversations often turned to the historic flashpoints between Islam and Christianity, East and West.
At the Gallipoli Centenary, one of the local guides was a rugby-mad Turk from Istanbul. We had some great discussions - nothing was off limits.
Kutai was excited that I was from Christchurch, home of the Crusaders, a champion rugby team that he fanatically admired from afar. Over a glass or two of raki one night, I mentioned to this follower of moderate Islam whether he took any offence at the Crusaders rugby name. Kutai responded that he’d noticed the team had cloaked itself in the medieval imagery of sword-wielding horsemen, but wasn’t the slightest bit insulted.
"Aren’t you an English town with Gothic buildings?" He shot back. No, he didn’t consider the Crusaders name provocative.
I remember him remarking, “history is history. The Crusades were all about defending their holy sites. I don’t recall Mecca or Medina ever being invaded by rampaging Christians".
I was struck by his response – and recent events have prompted me to recall it. I don’t assume all Muslims to be as chilled as Kutai about the Crusaders branding, but the unseemly clamour by the social reactionaries demanding the Crusaders ditch their identity has certainly not be driven by the Muslim community.
Post-quake, the team’s name has become more intimately connected with conquering a profound challenge, the relentless pursuit of excellence, personifying the word’s wider definition.
I believe the medieval imagery will be permanently softened in the wake of March 15. But the evidence is mounting that expunging the Crusader name, has spectacularly failed to secure a public mandate.
The most credible insight of public opinion to date came with the Colmar-Brunton Poll. The poll shows only 14 per cent of respondents supports a name change. A blistering repudiation of this nonsense.
The Crusaders has commissioned its own polling. Why bother pursuing this side-show? Abandoning the team name would only serve to pacify the warriors of woke, who are so waywardly out of step with mainstream sentiment. They exploited a tragedy. They crassly targeted the Crusaders. Ditching the name runs a massive risk of alienating millions of fans, for no credible reason.