Finding parking options sparse for a Muslim Feast of the Sacrifice ceremony on Sept. 24 at Bartle Hall, Husain Abdullah followed the flow of traffic toward an adjacent lot at the Grace & Holy Trinity Cathedral.
Then he was waved in by a man parked in the spot reserved for the dean of that Episcopal Church.
Abdullah “took note” of that, he wrote on his Instagram account, and so after the prayer service he rang the doorbell of the church and asked to speak with the dean, Peter DeVeau, to give thanks.
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From his window, DeVeau had been enjoying his view of a procession of colorful dress from all over the world.
When he was told a man named Husain Abdullah wanted to see him, he didn’t immediately know it was “the” Husain Abdullah, a Chiefs’ safety, because the name is common among Muslims.
As DeVeau descended the stairs toward Abdullah and his son, Jalaal, each dressed in traditional garb, DeVeau extended a Muslim greeting of peace: “As-Salamu-Alaikum.”
Abdullah returned the greeting, then enjoyed a tour of the Cathedral, a brief history of the Church and learning of DeVeau’s time in Iran, where he was exposed to Islam and traditions such as Ramadan and Hajj.
As Abdullah and his son were about to leave, Abdullah asked DeVeau if the church had a youth group.
And that’s why 30 members of that group will be attending the Chiefs’ game against San Diego on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
This exchange of simple kindnesses became part of DeVeau’s sermon a few days later, when part of his prepared text called for making it “easier and safer for our Muslim neighbors to attend prayers at nearby Bartle Hall. God knows, there is enough ignorance and fear-mongering among Americans regarding Muslims.”
That hysteria, of course, only seems to have increased since then as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump continues to inflame radicals of all causes by alternately advocating the herding, branding and banning of Muslims because of the acts of a lunatic fringe.
The hateful approach hinges largely on dehumanizing Muslims. And at least part of that seeks to exploit the fact many Americans don’t have any sort of relationship with even one of the estimated 1.8 million adult Muslims in the United States, as noted by Star columnist Mary Sanchez.
“Muslims get a lot of bad press in this country, and it’s all due to ignorance,” DeVeau said. “It reminds me of the things people used to say about Catholics and Jews in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
“It was ‘the other,’ you know?”
If you don’t know them, why should you care about them?
And you sure better hate what you don’t know or understand ... even if since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly twice as many people in the United States have been killed by white supremacists, anti-government fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims, as The New York Times put it in June.
In keeping with his strategy, a few days ago Trump took another willfully ignorant and dismissive jab at Muslims.
After President Obama had the temerity to say that Muslim-Americans are our friends and co-workers and men and women in uniform and sports heroes, Trump had this posted to his Twitter account:
“Obama said in his speech that Muslims are our sports heroes. What sport is he talking about, and who? Is Obama profiling?”
To name a few, let’s start with boxer Muhammad Ali, widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential athletes of the 20th century and who in a recent statement denounced “the ruthless violence of so-called Islamic Jihadists (as going) against the very tenets of our religion.”
Consider, too, famed basketball stars Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the six-time NBA MVP who took on Trump in his Time magazine column.
“If violence can be an abstraction — and it can; that’s what a threat is — the Trump campaign meets this definition,” he wrote. “Thus, Trump is ISIS’s greatest triumph: the perfect Manchurian Candidate who, instead of offering specific and realistic policies, preys on the fears of the public, doing ISIS’s job for them.”
Regarding Trump’s statement about Muslim athletes, Abdul-Jabbar noted that that the attached “insidious” suggestion is that “if there were no Muslim sports heroes, Muslims would somehow be lesser people, less worthy. This cruel and dim-witted thinking is not the stuff presidents are made of.”
Then there is Abdullah, who, to be sure, is a Muslim first and football player second.
As a true Muslim, he left the NFL for a year to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca at age 27, in the prime of his career and at the height of his earning potential.
As a true Muslim, during Ramadan last year he observed the demands of not eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset even during summer training camp.
As a true Muslim, he handled with grace the controversy over being penalized last year against New England after he slid on his knees into the end zone as he began to “prostrate before God,” as he put it then.
And as a true Muslim, he recently co-signed and posted on Instagram a statement of conscience written by his brother Hamza, a former NFL safety. (Abdullah is out of action this week because of a concussion, and the Chiefs said he declined an interview request for this story.)
“It’s time for us as Muslims to stand up, not just to people who aren’t Muslims (and) who attack Islam but also to people who claim to be Muslims and do not act accordingly,” they posted on Dec. 4, two days after the San Bernardino shootings perpetrated by Islamic extremists. “If you are a Muslim, you submit your entire will and life to Allah. You sacrifice your wants, desire and pleasures for the sake of Allah.
“You have patience and humility. You cherish the life Allah has blessed you with and enjoin good while forbidding evil. You aim to do good deeds at all times …
“I cannot imagine Allah being pleased with his servants taking the lives of the innocent. We as Muslims must stand up for justice and stand up for true Islam.”
The essay adds, “When one part of the community is hurt, the entire community is hurt. I’m hurt. I hurt for my brothers and sisters who do the right thing day-in and day-out yet they are still looked at as the enemy. I hurt for the innocent victims all over the world who are being terrorized because of the actions of a few. I hurt for anyone and everyone who (has) been affected by something done in the name of Islam. Islam came as a remedy, but it’s now being twisted and used as a disease.”
In conclusion, it added, “I pray that we all come together as peaceful people and stop fearing each other. Let us learn, know and love one another.”
Things that might show up in the simplest of ways and gestures, like DeVeau and the church allowing the use of the lot — compelling Abdullah to punctuate writing about it with “#alhmdulillah (praise be to God) for good people.”
“He is a sterling human being,” DeVeau said. “He exudes the peace of Islam.”