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Muslim Player’s Prayer Penalty Wrong: NFL

CAIRO – Reacting to growing anger over undue penalty, officials from the National Football League said on Tuesday that Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah should not have been penalized for prostrating after scoring a touchdown.

“Abdullah should not have been penalized. Officiating mechanic is not to flag player who goes to ground for religious reasons,” Michael Signora, spokesman of NFL, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday, September 30.

During Monday’s game, the National Football League (NFL) player Abdullah received a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after punctuating his 39-yard interception return for a touchdown.

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The refs flagged the 29-year-old veteran for dropping to his knees after the play to prostrate to Allah, technically a violation of the league’s celebration rules.

“If I get a pick, I’m going to prostrate before God in the end zone,” Husain Abdullah, a devout Muslim player, told The Kansas City Star on Tuesday, September 30.

Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1 (d) of the NFL rulebook states that “players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations or demonstrations while on the ground.”

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However, NFL experts confirmed that going to one’s knees to give praise is exempt from that enforcement.

“You’re not penalized for going to the ground to give praise after a TD,” former NFL referee Mike Pereira pointed out last season.

Over the past years, there have been some exceptions made for religious expressions, such as Tim Tebow’s prayer while kneeling.

For Tebow, falling into his knees to perform his Christian prayer has not been penalized, but became a highly embraced phenomenon during the 2011 season.


Though Abdullah seemed to accept the decision, the penalty sparked a quick outrage.

“To prevent the appearance of a double standard, we urge league officials to clarify the policy on prayer and recognize that the official made a mistake in this case,” Ibrahim Hooper from Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil liberties and advocacy organization, said in a statement early Tuesday.

Others poured anger on Twitter where it was noted that plenty of Christian players mark their scores with prayers.

“Brandon Marshall gets on knees & raises hands to Jesus after TD..No penalty..Husain Abdullah bows to Mecca..15 yards!,” Arsalan Iftikhar™ wrote on Twitter.

“Husain Abdullah was very gracious about the penalty. Says he was praying but thought he was flagged for sliding into it. “I got too excited”,” Danny Parkins tweeted.

“Abdullah said the ref didn’t say anything to him and he didn’t ask for an explanation because he was pretty sure it was for the slide,” he added.

Feeling that the penalty has been justified, rumors about further penalties sparked Abdullah’s agent anger.

“If the NFL tries to fine @HAbdullah39 for his TD celebration there’s going to be some problems,” the agent, CJ LaBoy, said on Twitter late Monday night.

Offering a role-model to young Muslims, Abdullah and his brother, Hamza, who spent 2005-11 with the Arizona Cardinals, made a 30-city-in-30-day, cross-country road trip in a minivan during the 30 days of Ramadan in July and August.

They spoke and prayed at mosques and performed community service from coast-to-coast and in Canada, even while fasting during Ramadan.

After the trip, Abdullah decided not to return to the Minnesota Vikings, taking his wife, parents and two older brothers on a month-long spiritual journey to Saudi Arabia at the prime time of his career.