President Barack Obama noted in his Sunday-night speech that “Muslim-Americans are our friends and our neighbors, our co-workers, our sports heroes.” The life of perhaps the most famous of those sports heroes shows that Muslims are also disproportionately victimized by Muslim terrorists.
Forty-two years ago, a group of Muslim men murdered seven people in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Washington, DC, home. The six-time NBA MVP and NBA champion had handed over the house to his Islamic teacher Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, the man who selected Kareem’s wife and barred Kareem’s Catholic parents from the wedding ceremony. The religious fanatic had also called Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad “a lying deceiver.” Khaalis did not pay for Kareem’s house but he paid dearly for this blasphemous error.
A Nation of Islam goon squad invaded the home owned by Abdul-Jabbar and murdered five of the imam’s children, a grandchild, and a man unrelated to him. The five kids killed, including a newborn drowned in a bathtub just like all the other child-victims save for the oldest, ranged from a few days old to a fourth-grader. One of the killers rationalized the child-murders by stating: “the seed of the hypocrite is in them.”
Neither Kareem nor his mentor appears to grasp the role of Islam in the murders.
At the trial of his family’s killers, Khaalis dismissed them as “tricksters and murderers and gangsters that deviate on Islam.” When Khaalis and his followers took over three District of Columbia buildings four years after the murders, he blamed “Jewish judges” for letting the killers go despite the fact that a trial sent four of the assailants to the penitentiary for lengthy sentences. Khaalis reasoned, “The Jews control the courts and the press.”
That 1977 Hanafi Siege resulted in the non sequitur kidnappings of 100 people at the headquarters of B’nai B’rith, the killing of a journalist at a DC government building, and the wounding of future Washington, D.C. mayor Marion Barry. Khaalis demanded the government hand over his family’s murderers to him so he could personally mete out justice, censor a film called Mohammad: Messenger of God, waive a $750 contempt of court fine, and facilitate a visit from Muhammad Ali.
Khaalis spent the rest of his days imprisoned. Kareem spent his liberated from Khaalis.
He performed marvelously in Airplane!, writes beautifully for Time, and retired with more points than any player in NBA history. He proves that mainstream and Muslim are not mutually exclusive. But the basketball Hall of Famer, even if practicing a more tolerant brand of Islam, still wears blinders when it comes to religion. “Knowing that these terrorist attacks are not about religion, we have to reach a point where we stop bringing Islam into these discussions,” the longtime Lakers center wrote in reaction to the Charlie Hebdo attacks earlier this year. “I know we aren’t there yet because much of the Western population doesn’t understand the Islamic religion.”
One wonders if the president, or one of the Islamic athletes he obliquely referenced Sunday night, fall into that category.
Though Obama’s evocation of Muslim-American sports heroes in an effort to stitch the foreign faith into the fabric of America misses something about the nature of Islam, one of those Muslim-American sports heroes demonstrates the truth of another of the president’s points, that “the vast majority of terrorist victims around the world are Muslim.”
Kareem, or at least the people who once lived in his house, could tell you this—if fellow Muslims did not murder them first.