Football Jihad

Bowing to pressure, the controversial Muslim football teams named Intifada, Mujahedin, and the like have changed their names, but not before Ruben Navarette of the Dallas Morning News got in a few licks at the yahoos (as he clearly regarded them) who dared to get upset about it. In a phrase that must have set the Morning News‘s editorial board cackling with the joys of turnabout-is-fair-play, Navarette called protests against the team names “political correctness run amok.”

Navarette quoted Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center saying that the team names were totally unacceptable. “Cooper told the Associated Press that such words are ‘linked to real terrorists, real threats, real murders.’ And using them only glorifies terrorism.” But Navarette is unconvinced, and takes his editorial switch to Rabbi Cooper: “With all due respect, Rabbi, that’s a real stretch. We’re talking about football teams, remember? A little perspective wouldn’t hurt. Judging from the comments of some of the players, most of whom are in their twenties, there doesn’t seem to have been any malicious intent.” What’s more, it was the yahoos, not the poor Muslims, who were threatening to up the ante to physical violence: “Some of the players have even quit the tournament because hate mail and talk-radio rants have them fearing for their safety.”

Here’s the rub: “As for glorifying terrorism, I suppose if that argument were true, it would follow that a pro football team named the Redskins was meant to honor the American Indian. Funny. Many American Indian groups don’t see it that way. For years, they have staged a national campaign to rid teams of such names.”

What would Ruben Navarette say to a German football team named “Hitler Youth” or “SS”? I expect that he wouldn’t be invoking aggrieved Native Americans in that case. Or what about a Russian team named, say, the Mighty Stalinists? (Actually, many media types might like that one very much.)

The problem is that, before political correctness really did run amok, it was clear that names like Redskins were indeed intended to honor the American Indian. Sports teams have never taken names of things they meant to demean, or things they despised. Rather, all sports team names are intended to evoke strength and power by connection with a figure recognized as strong and powerful. This is an elementary point that used to be taken for granted: Eagles, Tigers, Bears – these names were not taken by people who hated or despised animals, but by people who wanted to claim the same strength of those animals. Likewise I doubt you will find that any of these young men playing football despise or reject the Intifada or jihad.

Says Navarette: “A little perspective wouldn’t hurt.” All right. Here’s some: the name Mujahedin means “jihad warriors.” While jihad has meant many things in Islamic history and tradition, it has always had a significant martial aspect. One classic manual of Islamic sacred law defines this jihad as “war against non-Muslims,” noting that the word itself “is etymologically derived from the word mujahada, signifying warfare to establish the religion.” This manual also stipulates that “the caliph makes war upon Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians . . . until they become Muslim or pay the non-Muslim poll tax.” Hardly a tidy vision of multiculturalist tolerance, eh, Mr. Navarette?

Also, when the Muslim footballers took the name Mujahedin, they were adopting a name that they were very likely to have known was used by radical Muslims around the world to refer to themselves. In Russia, self-proclaimed mujahedin have taken hostages and murdered people in movie theaters and on a commuter train. In Nigeria, self-proclaimed mujahedin have waged war on non-Muslims in recent years, taking thousands of lives. In Saudi Arabia, they recently exploded bombs in a residential area, killing many small children. In Israel, they have carried out innumerable murderous attacks against unarmed civilians on buses, in restaurants, in homes, and elsewhere. In Bali, they murdered over 200 people by bombing nightclubs. In Turkey, they murdered Jews at worship in synagogues. In Indonesia, they have destroyed homes, schools and churches in Christian villages, forcibly circumcised male and female Christians, and murdered nearly 100,000 people. In Egypt, they have continually persecuted Coptic Christian Egyptians, murdering over forty people in cold blood in recent years and frequently damaging or destroying churches and Christian businesses. In Sudan, they have uprooted thousands from their homes and brutally enslaved them. And in the United States, mujahedin murdered almost 3,000 people in two large office buildings. They also have plotted to gas subways, poison water supplies, and blow up bridges. Now the mujahedin are threatening to destroy New York City with a dirty bomb by Groundhog day.

Is this what these young football players admire? Is this the kind of strength they want to emulate in their games? These young men may be assimilating, as Ruben Navarette condescendingly insists, but the team names that they originally chose betray priorities and values that are still very much at variance with those of a tolerant, secular society.