The Record (Bergen County, NJ)
March 14, 1996 | CHRISTOPHER MUMMA, Staff Writer
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf’s refusal on religious grounds to stand during the playing of the national anthem before NBA games produced mixed reaction among North Jersey Muslims on Wednesday.
There is no Islamic precept forbidding Muslims from participating in a demonstration of respect for nations. The action by the Denver Nuggets’ star point guard, for which he was suspended by the league Tuesday, “is definitely a gray area” in Islam, said Yaser El Menshawy, the executive director of the Islamic Public Affairs Council.
“This is a tough one,” El Menshawy said. “For many Muslims, the national anthem is a symbol of the United States, which supports a great deal of oppression. It supports regimes that commit many human rights violations.”
Indeed, in explaining his decision, Abdul-Rauf called the American flag “a symbol of oppression, of tyranny.”
There is an Islamic rule that says “if you see an evil, you should change it with your hand,” El Menshawy said. “If you can’t do that, you should speak against it, and if you can’t do that, then you should hate it with your heart.
“[Abdul-Rauf] sees some things that he clearly believes are wrong, and so do many in the Muslim community,” El Menshawy said. “He is speaking against it, and there is an argument that says he is doing it out of faith.”
Abdul-Rauf’s actions are not specific to Islam, some Muslims pointed out. Civil disobedience based on religious grounds is common in every religion.
“The Constitution gives him every right to decline,” said Dr. Shaik Ubaid of the Islamic Circle of North America. “There are many religious people or so-called leftists or liberals who refuse to do the same. But there is no clear intention in Islam about this.” Much like Judaism and Christianity, Muslims are forbidden to bow down before anyone but their God, said Salah Obeidallah, the head of the Islamic Center in Paterson. But this has nothing to do with a show of respect for nations, he said.
“I don’t know the logic behind this,” Obeidallah said. “Some things must have misguided his thought process. It’s unfortunate that he chose to make that kind of statement that confuses American public opinion toward Muslims.”