Tuesday , 25 July 2017

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Modesty and the Muslim athlete

First, we must acknowledge the hypocrisy: That is, how college and pro football players can make a play that sends thousands of fans in the stadium — along with millions watching on TV — into wild celebrations and cues elaborate dance routines from a squad of cheerleaders … but those same players are sometimes penalized and (at the pro level) even fined if they join in the celebration and dancing.

College football conferences have explored the idea of penalizing schools whose rowdy fans tear down goalposts in the name of celebration, and some have in recent years adopted monetary punishments to deter such actions. So in other words, while a mob of football fans endangering lives and destroying property on the field might get in trouble, a single football player who strikes a “Heisman” pose or does the “Nae Nae” in the end zone probably will get in trouble.

How does that look if you’re an athlete? Basically, everyone else in the room is free to revel in your accomplishment to the point where they could actually hurt themselves and others — but you’ll get punished for not being above the fray.

A recent instance of this double standard happened in Week 10 of the NFL season, when Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton scored a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans and launched into a one-man dance that went on just a little too long for Titans linebacker Avery Williamson. With referees and players trying to separate the two, Williamson — who had done his own dance after sacking Newton earlier in the game — confronted the QB to let him know he didn’t appreciate the celebration. Newton, of course, responded by dancing some more.

The main story line from Panthers-Titans could have been Carolina getting the victory to remain one of just two undefeated teams in the league, or Newton adding to his MVP resume this season, or Newton winning the QB duel with Tennessee rookie sensation Marcus Mariota. Instead, the dominant narrative became Newton’s TD dance and the reaction to it.

Newton was not penalized on the field or fined by the NFL. But soon after the game, a fan from Tennessee wrote a letter to Newton that was republished in the Charlotte Observer, chastising him for his actions and accusing him of setting a bad example for her 9-year-old daughter and other kids who watch football. She even blamed Newton for inciting boorish behavior in the stands by visiting Carolina fans and for the equally boorish responses by Tennessee fans. Because if you’ve ever been to a football game, you know that alcohol- and adrenaline-fueled fans only act like animals when a player on the field makes them do it.

In an ironic twist, while arguments were (and still are) being made among fans and media about whether the NFL should take action to thwart Newton and other players from offending public sensibilities with dance moves and “in your face” celebrations, the Panthers’ next opponent after the Titans was the Washington Redskins.

So while the NFL spends the days between games deciding whether to punish its players for dancing — like Arizona Cardinals QB Carson Palmer, who was fined recently for a pelvic thrust during an on-field celebration — the league continues to promote and profit off a team whose nickname is a racial slur. Priorities?

Even though I tend to defend athletes who are being subject to unfair admonition or undue criticism, I can’t exactly stand up and advocate for college football Saturdays and NFL Sundays to turn into weekend-long episodes of “Soul Train.”

I am Muslim, after all, and modesty is a big part of Islam. And serving up Chris Brown moves with a side of Soulja Boy after scoring a touchdown isn’t modest.

When we talk about modesty as it relates to Muslims, it should be clear that modest does not always translate to boring, bland or unreasonably restrictive.

So much of the world remains ignorant to the basic tenets and pillars of Islam, but one thing even the FOX News crowd knows is that Muslims are — or at least strive to be — modest in our daily lives.

“Every deen (religion) has an innate character. The character of Islam is modesty,” Prophet Muhammad once said.

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