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PERTH: Australia’s Usman Khawaja staged a muted protest against the war in Gaza on Thursday, wearing a black armband during the first Test against Pakistan and taping up messages on his shoes.

The opening batsman had wanted to wear shoes emblazoned with the hand-written slogans “Freedom is a human right” and “All lives are equal” during the match at Perth.

But Pakistan-born Khawaja, who is Muslim, was told that it flouted International Cricket Council rules on messages that relate to politics, religion or race.

With Cricket Australia saying it expected the players to uphold the rules, Khawaja covered over the slogans with semi-transparent tape leaving the words – in the colour of the Palestinian flag – visible only in close-up.

Cricket Australia said Khawaja was wearing the armband as a show of solidarity. His opening partner David Warner, who slammed 164, said the team backed what he was doing.

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“He’s entitled to his opinion and we fully support that,” he said. “He’s a really good mate of mine and I know this is something really close to his heart. All we can do is support Uzzie and his views on that.”

More than 18,600 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the Gaza health ministry.

In a video Khawaja recently shared on Instagram, he asked: “Do people not care about innocent humans being killed?”

Khawaja has vowed to fight the ban on his footwear, calling it “a humanitarian appeal”.

He doubled down on his stance just before going in to bat in the first Test on Thursday.

“I just think that so much has happened in the past that sets a precedent,” Khawaja told Fox Cricket.

“Other guys that have religious things on their equipment, under the ICC guidelines that’s not technically allowed, but the ICC never says anything on that,” he added.

Australian captain Pat Cummins said he was “really proud” of his teammate and of other squad members who had spoken up for what they believe in.

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