Just hours after Breitbart News published the troubling history of NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s oppressive attitudes towards women that came with his 1971 conversion to Islam at age 24, Jabbar responded directly to Breitbart with a lengthy Facebook post where he admits, “I no longer hold those orthodox views.”
Jabbar’s post is titled “Running on Empty Journalism” and highly critical and suspicious of our decision to report on his background. In fact, most of Jabbar’s post is laced with defensive insinuations and outright accusations that Breitbart News is motivated by anti-Muslim bigotry.
“I’m also interested in why the focus on Islam?” Jabbar writes. “In this case, the motivation seems to be another opportunity to continue fanning the anti-Muslim sentiment.”
Jabbar doesn’t appear to dispute any of our reporting and, according to my research, for the first time says he no longer holds an orthodox view of Islam when it comes to his attitudes towards Muslim women:
Given my youth and newness to the religion, I embraced the most orthodox teachings because that’s what I was taught. But, like most people, my beliefs and practices evolved over time as I matured. Not many of us would like to be judged by our behavior in our youth. Not many of us can look back on things we said, thought, or did without cringing and wishing we could travel back in time to tell that younger version to wise up. …
Again, I no longer hold those orthodox views and haven’t for decades.
Jabbar adds, “I don’t agree with who I was in my twenties,” but does fail to address a passage from “Giant Steps,” his 1983 autobiography. As we originally reported, at age 36, Jabbar wrote of women in general and Muslim women specifically:
I had never lived with a woman or anyone who could either put demands on me or even have her own different routine. Never a great compromiser, I was never the easiest guy to live with. … It’s not easy being a Muslim woman – her hair and arms and legs must be covered in public; she can’t be too aggressive; she must take care of the children[.]
Although Breitbart News made close to a half-dozen requests through his representative to speak with or get comment from Jabbar on the specific topic of his prior relationship with Grier and his current attitudes towards women, one of his apparent complaints today is, “While I never met or spoke to the article’s author, he detailed my relationship with actress Pam Grier[.]”
Here’s a portion of an email we sent on March 10:
…the only document I have on the subject of his attitude towards how his faith dictates women should be treated in a personal relationship is Pam Grier’s autobiography, and some old magazine articles that back up pieces of her story.
Anything you could send my way would be appreciated. Obviously, I’ll keep digging.
As we reported in our original article, the only response we received were links to his columns, which did not contain the information we were looking for.
One point of interest in Jabbar’s response is an apparent dispute over the break-up of his relationship with Grier. He says, “[T]he reason we parted was not religion-based but career-based.” With her film career blossoming in Los Angeles and his basketball career taking off in Milwaukee, “Like a lot of couples,” he writes, “we couldn’t make the long-distance relationship work.”
According to Grier’s account, the breakup was primarily due to the dictates of Jabbar’s Islamic faith, which clashed with her desire for an education and early embrace of the burgeoning women’s liberation movement.
According to Grier, “That’s what Allah wants. The man is the leader,” was Jabbar’s repeated rationale for telling her she couldn’t work or get an education, had to walk behind him, had to cover up, be chaperoned, and be prepared to share him with other wives. Jabbar humiliated Grier in front of their friends, and on her birthday laid down the ultimatum that, according to her account, ended their romance:
“If you don’t commit to me today, I’m getting married at 2:00 this afternoon. She’s a converted Muslim and she’s been prepared for me.”
Grier was blindsided by the news. She had no idea Jabbar had been seeing or preparing to marry another woman. He left the door open to them still getting married, “Once you become a Muslim, you might appreciate another wife.”
According to Grier, Jabbar kept his promise and married that day.
Many of the views Jabbar says he no longer holds fall under the definition of Sharia Law.
Wednesday, in a column for Time Magazine, Jabbar accused Christians in Indiana of practicing Sharia over their support of a religious freedom bill that benefits all faiths and gives the Faithful legal standing in any dispute involving competing rights.
John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC