City of Brass

City of Brass

Hussein Abdullah gets a penalty for doing sajda in the endzone on Monday Night Football

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

As a (very) recent convert to the joy of American Football, I am fascinated by the penalty issued to Kansas City Chiefs’ safety Hussein Abdullah for performing a sajda (prayer prostration) of thanks after an epic 39-yard pick-six on Patriots’ QB Tom Brady. Public prayers by Christian players such as Tim Tebow have been celebrated, but despite the large number of Muslim players in the NFL, there still isn’t enough awareness on the part of referees. Abdullah’s sajda was flagged as “unsportsmanlike conduct, going to the ground” and Kansas City was penalized 15 yards.


Here’s the relevant section from the NFL rules:

Section 3 Unsportsmanlike Conduct
Article 1 There shall be no unsportsmanlike conduct. This applies to any act which is contrary to the
generally understood principles of sportsmanship. Such acts specifically include, among others:
(d) Individual players involved in prolonged or excessive celebrations. Players are prohibited from
engaging in any celebrations while on the ground.

However, as former referee and rules expert Mike Pereira noted on Twitter last year, players are not penalized for going to the ground to give praise after a TD:


You can see from the video that Abdullah’s prayer was indeed a personal praise moment and not performed with intention to taunt.

Hussein and his brother Hamza Abdullah are devout Muslims who took the year off in 2012 from the NFL to perform the Hajj – and were featured in a documentary from ESPN called “outside the line” about their pilgrimage.


Abdullah himself did not take offense at being penalized –

And the NFL officials also admitted that the penalty call was an error this morning:

so, all’s well that ends well.

Overall, this issue demonstrates the need for more awareness about Islam, and is an honest case of misunderstanding and lack of knowledge. The benefit of this is that it helps to raise that awareness, and the longer term benefit of that is surely worth 15 yards. It’s not like that penalty made any difference as far as the Patriots were concerned!


UPDATE: Stephen Colbert has a hilarious take on the issue, as usual. Best line – “How can muslims even play football if they’re not allowed to touch the pigskin? We’re gonna have to switch to halal balls!” LOL

Also, this gem fwded me via chat – which i wish i could take credit for:

“after further review, it has been determined that the ball carrier was not facing Mecca at the time of his celebration, therefore the penalty stands.”


the NFL, concussions, and domestic abuse #WhyIStayed #WhyILeft

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

A lot of my friends who aren’t into football have remarked upon my newfound interest in football as being somewhat out-of-character (true, at first glance, but i’ll address that later) and also critiqued the sport for all its attendant social problems. Of those, the two main ones are domestic abuse by players and concussion injuries.

Concussion injuries are nothing to take lightly. I have not done nearly enough background research, but I suspect that the NFL players as a cohort are at the outer edge of medical knowledge, as far as understanding the limits of the human body. As such they do need to be protected more, and we can honor the sacrifices previous players who played, suffered, and even died, as heroes whose sacrifices have advanced the state of neuromedicine and sports medicine. I agree that whatever the NFL is doing, it probably isn’t enough, and the NFL has a vested interest in keephealthy players healthy. The fans of football are precisely the ones who exert that pressure on the NFL – those who boycott the sport are ultimately removing themselves from the conversation.


Domestic violence is far less addressable than concussions, and the problem here extends far beyond the NFL – in fact, the NFL is far more responsive to domestic violence issues than our society at large. The league was quick to dismiss Ray Rice after the video leaked of him knocking out his girlfriend in an elevator and dragging her unconscious down a hallway. Zero tolerance of abusers in society is far harder to enact. The Rice incident also had value in illustrating blame-the-victim mentalities among many sports and news pundits, especially on Fox News, who demanded to know how Janay Rice could return to her husband after such treatment. In response, a powerful Twitter campaign of dual hashtags, #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft, emerged that gave voice to survivors of domestic abuse, telling their own stories in their own words (in 140 characters or less, but no less compelling).


There have been thousands of tweets. Here are compilations of particularly compelling ones:

And personal essays inspired by the campaign:

And a sampling of individual tweets that moved me:

This are powerful testimonials from women who demonstrate that there’s nothing ordinary about being ordinary. If not for my newfound interest in football I honestly don’t think I would have gone as far as I have in educating myself on this issue. The simple truth is that the high profile of football as a sport and American pasttime is what brought the much-needed spotlight to these women’s voices.


13 years after 9-11

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Lower Manhattan

I honestly don’t have much left to say that I have not said already. But it is worth at least remarking on this, the anniversary of the attacks, that the global challenges facing the world today have almost nothing to do with terrorism or Islamic fanaticism. Yes, we have threats like ISIS to grapple with, but as the President said in his speech yesterday:


this is not our fight alone. American power can make a decisive difference, but we cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves, nor can we take the place of Arab partners in securing their region. And that’s why I’ve insisted that additional U.S. action depended upon Iraqis forming an inclusive government, which they have now done in recent days. So tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat.

The simple truth is that our response to 9-11 – the Afghan campaign and the Iraq War – directly led to the chaos the region faces today, including ISIS – far worse chaos than before our intervention. Had Saddam Hussein stayed in power, we would have seen the Arab Spring reach Iraq on its own, and all the young men who join militias today, toddlers during the war, might have grown up dreamy-eyed revolutionaries for democracy rather than radicalized forces for sectarianism and/or jihad.


Meanwhile, global warming has already progressed to the point where even if all the countries of the world fully committed to their targets for carbon reduction, we still are guaranteed a minimum 2 degrees increase in global temperature over the next century, which will have profound effects on mankind, especially Asia and the Subcontinent.

Just imagine if we had spent the $2 Trillion cost of the Iraq War on health care and global warming?


Saudis propose to relocate the Prophet’s (saw) tomb from Masjid al-Nabawi

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Big Bin: photo set on Flickr

The above photo of the Mecca clock tower, or as I like to call it, “Big Bin”, was during my hajj a few years ago. It is part of my general observations of the “Meccahattan”-ization of the holiest place in Islam, the way that the Saudi religious authorities are utterly obliterating the historical wealth of architecture and history that is the birthright of every Muslim in favor of a soulless, capitalist, cynical and ideological crusade* to remake the holy city into their vision of a Salafist Las Vegas.


If I am harsh, it is because I am bitter about what has been lost already. But I was clearly not cynical enough – this news came as a shock even to me.

One of Islam’s most revered holy sites – the tomb of the Prophet Mohamed – could be destroyed and his body removed to an anonymous grave under plans which threaten to spark discord across the Muslim world.


the consultation document for the al-Nabawi mosque in Medina, by the leading Saudi academic Dr Ali bin Abdulaziz al-Shabal of Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, has been circulated to the Committee of the Presidency of the Two Mosques.


Several pages of the consultation document have just been published in the presidency’s journal. They call for the destruction of the rooms surrounding the tomb – used by the Prophet’s wives and daughters, and venerated by the Shia because of their association with his youngest daughter, Fatima.

The document also calls for the Green Dome, which covers the tomb and these living quarters, to be removed, and the ultimate removal of the Prophet’s body to a nearby cemetery.

The al-Baqi cemetery already contains the bodies of many of the Prophet’s family, including his father who was removed there in the 1970s, Dr Alawi said. In 1924 all the grave markers were removed, so pilgrims would not know who was buried there, and so be unable to pray to them.


full story here:

Perhaps we need a million muslim march on Mecca. Muslims across the world must condemn, or be complicit in their silence.

UPDATE: a comprehensive and lengthy theological discussion that refutes the Wahabbi assertion that building structures over graves is somehow shirk.

*yes, I chose that word deliberately.

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