|Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, NBA player.|
[The Anti-Americanism of U.S. Converts to Islam]
by Daniel Pipes
February 21, 2000
An odd controversy briefly dominated the sports pages in March 1996. A player in the National Basketball Association, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, refused to follow the league's rule requiring that players stand in a "dignified posture" during the national anthem. Instead, since the beginning of the 1995-96 season, Abdul-Rauf had remained seated during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner.
A black, 27-year-old former Baptist from Mississippi who had converted to Islam in 1991, he declared that as a Muslim, he could not pay homage to the American flag - which he called a "symbol of oppression, of tyranny." He argued further that the flag directly contradicted his Islamic faith: "This country has a long history of [oppression]. I don't think you can argue the facts. You can't be for God and for oppression. It's clear in the Koran. Islam is the only way."
The NBA responded firmly, suspending Abdul-Rauf until he agreed to obey league rules. He missed one game, then capitulated. Two factors probably weighed most heavily on him: losing a cool $31,707 for each game missed, and facing wide opposition to his decision from other Muslims.