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AsiaNews – Yousaf Youhanna was the first Christian to get a spot on Pakistan ’s national cricket team after being a Muslim preserve for 35 years. Now, the player, who is still on the team, says he has converted to Islam. At a press conference in Gaddafi Stadium in his home town of Lahore , the cricketer announced that he had embraced Islam.

A maulana (Muslim cleric) led Yousaf (now known as Mohammad), his team mates and cricket fans in a namaz (a thanksgiving prayer).

According to state television, which broadcast the event, Youhanna publicly urged his former fellow Pakistani Christians to follow his example and that of his wife and child who have “already done it”.

Mgr Lawrence Saldanha, Archbishop of Lahore, calls the invitation to convert a “sin”. “His attitude,” the prelate said, “does not reflect the policy of “enlightened moderation” promoted by President Musharraf, who is trying to show a more tolerant image of Islam. And it was the politician who urged Christians not to react in a negative fashion but to remain faithful to the religion of their ancestors”

For Fr Nadeem John, director of the Wave studio, “Yousaf represented the Christians on the national team. He gave an image of tolerance and fair play. Now he is nowhere.”

Lahore ’s Christian fans are less diplomatic. “He has betrayed us,” said Hanif Masih, 60. He has done this to get the captain’s spot.”

One young girl emotionally said: ‘If I had a chance I would choke him because he has grossly disgraced us!’

“I used to watch cricket on the TV only to see him but now I will never watch cricket again,” vowed Sardar John.

A Christian rickshaw driver complained that Muslims are now taunting him.

Sister Genevieve, a Sister of Charity in Lahore , was told by a Muslim youth: “He is no longer yours, he is ours now!”…[Go To Full Story]