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Ibrahim Abdul-Matin: If Tim Tebow Were Muslim, Would America Still Love Him?

22 December 2011 Huffington Post 46 Comments Email This Post Email This Post

If Tim Tebow Were Muslim, Would America Still Love Him?

Huffington Post

The phenomenon that is Tim Tebow has extended outside the realms of the gridiron and into pop culture. Does he have God on his side? Would America love him if he was just as conservative and just as vocal, yet a member of the Islamic faith?

A version of this question was posed by Fox News recently. It was wrapped under the banner of their yearly “war on Christmas” with the subheading of a “war on Christians.” They argued that the voices calling for him to pipe down about his faith were anathema to a war on the Christian faith and that this is a growing and disturbing trend. They argued that the founding fathers initially came here for religious freedom and those freedoms were under attack.

To that last point I agree. Religious freedoms are under attack. Lots of freedoms are under attack. As a Muslim in this country there are countless examples of religious freedoms being questioned by the majority the least of which is this current fracas where the Lowe’s hardware store has pulled its money from ads on the “All-American Muslim” reality TV show. A show, from all accounts, that is neither universally reflective of American Muslims, but also, to right wing (nut) groups, does not expose Muslims for the real threat that they are.

So, it is in this cultural moment that we come to see Tebow Time every weekend. He plays terrible for three quarters and then, when all hope is lost, when the game is down to the wire, and the amazing defense of the Broncos (that love to watch him play instead of sitting when the offense is playing) puts him in a position to drive the team down the field, score to win or tie to go to overtime. They have done it consistently all season. The undefeated Green Bay Packers are now a side story to all that is the Denver Broncos led by Tim Tebow, probably the first home-schooled quarterback in American history. At the end of every game, Tebow, the child of Baptist missionaries, says the following: “First I would like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

I talked about this recently on Public Radio’s “The Takeaway.” It’s not like he is the first athlete to be vocal about his faith. In reality, football is a very faith-filled sport. The Lord’s Prayer is recited in almost every locker room in the country (save one town in Michigan that says the opening chapter of the Quran). As a Muslim, I know the Lord’s Prayer by heart because I played football for 13 years.

No, faith and football are not a new combination. What is new is Tebow.

What makes him irresistible is this collision of a series of factors: the media-saturated world we are in makes it so that we know far too much about athletes and public figures than ever before. Tebow is unique because he is both an underdog and a winner. He is both humble and non-judgmental — a dynamite combination for any human being. FInally, his fellow teammates love him, he does not drink, smoke or do drugs, he is celibate, unmarried, and he has a winning smile and personality.

People of faith should be cheering this model Christian on. Anyone of any passion should be exalting his independent thinking and supporting his right to speak freely about what he holds dear.

But what if he were Muslim? Americans look to people who are successful and they want to be like them. So, in some ways, young people want to be like him. If he were Muslim, would young people want to be Muslim? Would that scare people?

If he was Muslim would it be, as Fox News suggests, that everyone would be more careful when attacking him because the world is more sympathetic to Islam and on a march against Christianity?

Perhaps guilt that exists within Christians that were raised Christian but aren’t “practicing” Christianity in a particular way. They are uncomfortable about their faith. They see him out there with his public proclamations and it makes them feel like bad Christians. Would a “Muslim” Tebow, with all the qualities of humility and grace that Tebow exhibits, then make reactionary, and self-absorbed, Muslims feel like they were bad Muslims?

Tebow makes people that are faithful feel two ways. Some want him to be private about his faith and simply live by example. Others are like “Yes! That’s awesome!”

In general, some of the best people of any faith are too concerned about their own development and that challenges of living in this intensely secular culture to be worried about telling others what they should or should not be or do. That’s Tim Tebow. He’s concerned about his own development. That’s what everyone admires him for. He does not really care about what you think and you feel like he wants you to be as ecstatic about what you believe as he is. But would it be the same if he were a Muslim?

Finally, the big question: Is God on Tebow’s side? Obviously we will never know the answer. I will say this: If the Broncos continue at the pace they are going, make it to the playoffs, have a miraculous run all the way to the Superbowl, and if their defense is good enough to keep the game under 10 points and you give Tim Tebow the ball at the end of the game, then you might see Tebow as the Superbowl champion. Would we think he had God on his side this whole year?

And what if he did all that and the first thing he said in the interview was: “First, I would like to thank Allah and send blessings upon Prophet Muhammad.”

Would America think God was on his side then?

Follow Ibrahim Abdul-Matin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ibrahimSalih

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46 Comments »

  1. Who said America loves him? lol

  2. he would be bagging groceries at wal mart

  3. No, I think he would end up being a bigger joke than he alread is XD

  4. Forget about it..he’ll be booed of the field

  5. There is too much ignorance in America. He’d be dubbed a “terrorist” simply because of being Islamic.

  6. I love the hypothetical crap im really starting to dislike this page mainly due to your support of Iran a totalitarian ruthless regime of religious thugs! But come on? Really due explain how this post holds any form of revelence on the matter of islamaphobia!? This coming from and Atheist I dislike all religion but this page is making muslims look even worse. Report real stories of real bigorty and hate towards muslims. I love all people but the minute you use you’re religion as an excuse for your actions that’s where I draw the line. Report real issues! Bye!

  7. LMAO No.

  8. Actually we have had a few great Muslim American athletes who were admired and well respected for both their faith and their game. I hope people of any faith should look at Tebow and say yes you can play football and be a nice religious person as well.

  9. Agreed that he would not be so readily embraced if he were openly practicing Islam. I’ve seen far too much vitriol hurled at Islam – that anyone who is not supporting the political agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood is either lying or not a true Muslim. Of course, this comes from people who have never taken a course in Islam and have never personally known a Muslim. I have done both, and have been accused of either being a crypto-Muslim being a “Muslim Sympathizer” (what is that, exactly?) for presenting Qur’anic arguments and trying to get people to rationally place them in context. Actually, I’m a syncretic Deist who believes in reason and spirituality–that there’s an essence of Divine Truth in pretty much all faiths.

  10. Funny. I was wondering this exact thing when I heard all the raucous being raised by Faux Snooze about the brothers getting into “trouble” at their school for Tebowing. Wondered what the Faux folks and Americans would say if these were Muslims mimicking an athlete praying.

  11. America is not accepting Halal products on it’s shelves. Let’s discuss that!

  12. @chris, this article, although hypothetical,is a perfect example of islamophobia. The point is that tebow would not be embraced by religious Americans if he was a muslim.

  13. Absolutely not.

  14. I like him because he doesn’t quit. The wearing of one’s religion on one’s sleeve makes me a little uncomfortable however, no matter what the religion is.

  15. Its sad that a “free” country can’t respect EVERYONE’s right to worship and not just a select few

  16. I have never heard of him. There are an awful lot of Americans who could care less about football. WHY isn’t America accepting Halal products on the shelves? It really is a much better question.

  17. omg he become an alien :o

  18. Where are you living, L’Ageriano?

  19. I doubt it :/

  20. i would still love tim tebow. He loves god period, he just happens to call his jesus.

  21. this goes back to the situation of a woman on death row (in Texas,of course)awaiting executiion having converted to Chrsitianity & claimed she was no longer the person who committed the crime. Religious groups,Falwell,Robertson were all pleading for her sentence reduction to life based on her religious conversion. It failed (of course,Texas,again)but had she converted to Islam or a non-Christian faith she,would she have had conservative advocates for her life??? Of course not,Falwell & Pat Robertson would have led the charge for her execution!!!

  22. Tebow should be admired for his celibacy and strong sense of faith. However, I’m not fond of athletes blatantly showing off their faith like he does. If he were Muslim, I’d feel the same way. Now the point of the article is that would all these people that like that he’s “not being PC about his faith” feel the same if he were Muslim? No. Those people aren’t interested in free exercise of religion for everybody. Only themselves.

  23. muslims love jesus and could be the only non christian love and belive to jesus as the messih..

  24. Jaw. Football fanatics would find a way to overlook it.

  25. Tebow grew up and played ball as a kid not far from where I live. He was a huge deal when he was in high school and it has grown and grown. I think people admire his religious faith…but fact is many atheletes out there are just as religious. What they don’t have is the Public Relations machine behind them to get them a world stage for all to see. Tebow used to be on all the local news channels as a teenager giving his take on the Friday night football games. He was groomed from a very early age to create an image and people bought into it. He is a human, but he is also a ”product” that is being marketed to the world. The fact kids are ”tebowing” in school” is proof. I saw kids at my school where i teach ”tebowing”…they were NOT praying…they were being silly and disruptive. In the middle of class they just should out ”everybody TEbow” and then drop to their knee. Everyone thinks to discourage that is coming out against Christianity, but it’s not…they are not doing it for religious practice…it’s a joke and fun to them. I have no problem with it per se…but fact is…while tebow may think he’s being faithful, all I see (and I have a degree in PR) is someone being made into a marketable, money making product…and the more media attention he gets, the more money that can be made off of him through endorsements…and that’s the bottom line with most folks. He’s turning into a pop culture phenomenon not unlike “jersey shore”…and it’s either going to fade away or blow up in his face eventually.

  26. Have to comment here . . . I don’t usually like the current American political conservatives – period – precisely because their actions are antithetical with their ‘faith.’ And, I have a huge problem with mixing religion and politics altogether; no matter the religion, no matter the country, no matter the continent. For me, this is a bad comparison as I am deeply suspicious of ANYONE who feels the obsessive need to preach religion. This silly football player probably isn’t taken seriously by most Americans, I hope.

  27. Oh whatever. Let the man do what he wants to do. Let the dude pray.

    So much drama over nothing, people!

  28. nope they wouldn’t

  29. If tebow were an open muslim instead of an open christian theres no way that he would get all of the love that he gets from madison ave. America is not ready for that. I would even go as far as saying that america would embrace an openly gay athlete before it would embrace a muslim athlete.

  30. ummmm, no

  31. Absobluminglutely no!!

  32. Tebow is the worst pro QB anyone has ever seen yet he gets a few fluke wins and says First I would like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” And everyone thinks he’s the messiah. What nonsense

    Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness

    9:31 They have taken their rabbis and their monks-as well as the Christ, son of Mary-for their lords beside God, [47] although they had been bidden to worship none but the One God, save whom there is no deity: the One who is utterly remote, in His limitless glory, from anything to which they may ascribe a share in His divinity

  33. If he was working as hard as he is now, saying the same things and having the success on the field, with his team, then many would give him the benefit of the doubt that he is getting by some now. His talk about being against abortions has harmed him in many circles and for many he is attacked about his faith as much as he is for his overall level of play. I would say that if he conducted himself with the class that he has so far and he was Muslim, then yes Americans would be more open to being respectful in return.

  34. I think combining sports and religion is in bad taste. Public group prayers are also, such as invocation prayers before gov. meetings.

  35. If he was a Muslim…. where would he keep that little pad for his knees to pray after each score?

    All giggles aside, that’s the beauty of living in this this country folks!! He’s free to observe prayer his own way. If he was Muslim, he would be equally as free.

  36. i don’t know him as i can’t say for sure1

  37. Athletes give thanks for their talent that God gave them. God does not side in football games otherwise it would come across he loves one more than the other. God loves everybody. Don’t sterotype. Not all Americans love Tim Tebow. Most of us do but not all. We love him for giving credit to Christ and that is what love to God is.

  38. What I like about him is his courage in being openly religious. I would have the same respect for him whatever religion he practiced. He’s counter-cultural.

  39. They don’t “love” him. The largely agnostic/atheist population laughs at Tebow and Jesus anyway…if he was Islamic, they would use their common place ignorance and bigotry to attack Islam and bemoan the encroachment of Muslim values. Neither religion wins in these United States.

  40. Of course, Michael Vick is loved by some, ball players aren’t like the rest of us, and their admirers only value performance, look over the good, and white wash the bad, and ignore the really bad

  41. No.

  42. Keep religion out of Politics and Sports. Religion belongs in the prayer places only, period!

  43. no because vocal conservative muslims blow themselfs and others up

  44. Oh bullshit. i just came here thinking FINALLY a group of people with brains. Should have known better. A few of you I see have some brain power here but the rest are BIGOTS and IGNORANT FEARFUL MEDIA SHEEP.

  45. @anon – You should not leave your faith aside when it comes to anything… Otherwise you get ‘secular western democracy’ and nobody wants that believe me your civil liberties are being eroded everyday (chipped away one little piece at a time) then bam ‘SOPA’ and you (in the blink of an eye) were transfered to an Orwellian state where your every move is monitored and where you have no rights…

  46. Let’s turn it around…would Tebow be able to do and say what he does in a Muslim country?! DON’T THINK SO! But of course, the muslim could! So enjoy your religious freedom people, no matter what opinion is and consider yourself “lucky you live in America!”

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