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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

New Mexico State Kicks Muslim Players Off the Football Team

In Nov. 2005, Matthew Rothschild wrote in The Progressive:

This was supposed to be Muammar Ali’s year at New Mexico State. “Muammar Ali, who led the team with 561 yards rushing, will get even more opportunities,” predicted in its NCAA football preview.

But he has no opportunities now. He’s off the team.

On October 9, he “received a message on his phone answering machine at his home that his jersey was being pulled and that he was released,” says a letter from his attorney, George Bach, of the ACLU of New Mexico, to the university.

That letter, dated October 25, alleges that Head Coach Hal Mumme engaged in religious discrimination.

“Coach Mumme questioned Mr. Ali repeatedly about Islam and specifically, its ties to Al-Qaeda,” the letter states. This made Mr. Ali uncomfortable, it says.

And then, after the team’s first game, “despite being the star tailback for several years, Mr. Ali was relegated to fifth string and not even permitted to travel with the team,” the letter says.

There were only two other Muslim players on the team, and they were also released, it says. The letter adds that the coach “regularly has players recite the Lord’s Prayer after each practice and before each game.”

Ali’s father, Mustafa Ali, says the trouble started at a practice over the summer when the coach told the players to pray.

New Mexico State has so far done nothing about this case, so the ACLU has announced that a lawsuit is being filed.

"Universities are supposed to be places of evolved thinking and reason, not of base intolerance and bigotry," said ACLU of New Mexico Executive Director Peter Simonson. "They are supposed to rise above the knee-jerk prejudices that sometimes afflict our society. In this case, the university failed its purpose and a coach indulged in those prejudices to assert his own religious preferences over the players and the team."

The ACLU is representing Mu-Ammar Ali, who played on athletic scholarship for the team for three consecutive seasons, and twin brothers Anthony and Vincent Thompson, who joined the team in 2004.


"Being coach doesn’t give someone the right to make a football team into a religious brotherhood," Simonson said. "University coaches are tax-paid role models. The public has a right to expect that they are going to model behaviors that we endorse as a society. Religious intolerance is not one of those behaviors."

Mumme appears to be buying into the horseshit insane rightwingers sling about Islam. Syndicated mental patient Neil Boortz told his radio audience recently, "[I]t is perfectly legitimate, perhaps even praiseworthy, to recognize Islam as a religion of vicious, violent, bloodthirsty cretins." Pat Robertson told his own marks, "Ladies and gentlemen, I don't know what it's going to take to wake up the American, especially the American left, to the danger that Islam faces, or presents to all of us."

If we have idiots on the right saying this bigotted crap, how surprised should we be when people take them seriously? There's more of it -- literally pages of anti-muslim hate speech made by conservative 'pundits'. But there are not pages of other conservatives disagreeing with them or calling these bigots to account.

The right is quick to label any criticism of Israel as antisemitism. They tell us that the left doesn't like Joe Lieberman because he's a jew. They're quick to find hatred where there is none. But when the bigotry is real and aimed at muslims, they don't say a word.


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