Snyder: Religious discrimination in NFL could strain players’ beliefs

Stephen Snyder

On Monday night, Kansas City Chiefs’ safety Husain Abdullah returned an interception for a touchdown, the second of his career, and followed through on a promise he had made to himself as a football player and devout Muslim.

That promise was to prostrate himself before Allah in the end zone. For that demonstration of his faith, he received a fifteen yard penalty. The NFL has since issued a statement saying that the penalty should not have been given. The NFL prohibits celebrations that involve the player on the ground, but according to NFL spokesman Michael Signora, the rule does not apply to a player that “goes to the ground as part of religious expression.”

The penalty, while it is definitely a minuscule example, is indicative of the general lack of understanding of non-Christian religions, specifically the Muslim faith. Many individuals voiced their frustration with the penalty flag on social media, many of them saying that “Tim Tebow never would have gotten that flag”, citing the former NFL quarterback’s trademark celebration of going to one knee and lowering his head as a means of praising God.

The fact is, those dissenters are correct. The Christian method would have been  — and is frequently — understood by officials and allowed. That being said, the bone which I am trying to pick is not with the NFL — they have enough going on already. Instead, I take issue with American society in general.

The United States is an overwhelmingly Christian nation. However, that does not mean that the religion should get more or less protection and understanding from Americans than any other global and well established faith.

When watching Fox News, everyone’s favorite right-wing, Caucasian perspective news channel, I have noticed a supposed injustice being committed against Christians in the United States. That injustice is the ever proliferating “War on Christmas.” The complaint is that American society is conforming to politically correct ideas simply because it makes people uncomfortable or perhaps projects one religion to be more important than others, which is of course not constitutionally permitted.

First, Christians in the United States should realize that they live in one of the most welcoming nations in the world for their religion. Compare the struggles of Christians in America to Christians in Iraq.

In that comparison, I am referring to the forcible removal of Christian Iraqis from their homes in Mosul, Iraq by ISIS under threat of execution. I would like to see a little more Christian outrage regarding the tangible persecution of their religion across the world and less complaining about the removal of a giant pine tree from their local malls.

While conservative Christians occupy their time taking offense to the removal of nativity scenes from local spaces — both of which they can put up on their own property — the principle they seem to follow is “just because someone doesn’t like it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be allowed.”

And I agree with them wholeheartedly. The problem only occurs when that principle becomes exclusively applicable to popular Christian ideals. When the construction of the Cordoba House, a Muslim community center, was proposed near — two blocks away, not visible from — Ground Zero in New York City, public criticism shut the project down before it even began. Therefore, before Christians bemoan the growing cultural sensitivity against their religious ideals, they should take the time to assess the ways they react in similar situations.

There are obvious differences in scale between those two comparisons and the arguments against a Cordoba House near Ground Zero surely have merit to those making them and I too sympathize with their sentiments. However, the rejection of the Cordoba House is directly related to the “Islamophobia“ that a large portion of our nation suffers from.

This topic will surely be an uncomfortable one for many readers, but that does not mean that it should not be said. On Sept. 11, 2001, 19 Muslim men, directed by Muslim terrorist organizations, hijacked American flights and used them to commit a horrific act, taking nearly 3,000 innocent lives. I hold that statement as fact.

I do not, however, associate the acts taken by those men to be indicative of the Muslim community. The same can and must be said of ISIL or Al Qaeda. Every religion has its particularly radical offshoots which it would prefer to ignore. Would we want non-Americans or non-Christians to look at the Westboro Baptist Church and take those examples to represent the whole of the Christian world?

The Golden Rule, which transcends religion, but it a tenant of many faiths, asks that we treat the people around us as we would like to be treated ourselves. I think treating one another equally and without prejudice would be a great place to start.