On Sunday evening Ethan and I watched an episode of Outside the Lines on ESPN, about two Muslim NFL players who are making Hajj, the journey to Mecca in Saudia Arabia which takes place during the last month of the Muslim calendar each year. The story is here at ESPN -- I can't embed it, but it's online. It's less than eight minutes long, and it's really worth watching.
Husain and Hamza Abdullah, both of whom are free agents in the National Football League, decided not to sign with anyone this year in order to be able to make the Hajj. The Hajj is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, and they decided to do it this year -- I'm guessing both because they could afford to do it, and because they knew it would offer them an opportunity (because of their position as NFL players) to educate Americans about Islam.
And since they were taking the season off from football, they decided to do a thirty-mosques-in-thirty-days road trip. Because why not, right?
I've linked before to 30 mosques in 30 days, a Ramadan travel-and-blogging project undertaken by a pair of Muslim bloggers. It's neat to get some glimpses of two NFL players (and their brother, who went on the road trip with them) who chose to go on that kind of journey. And I love the idea of visiting communities all over the country and seeing both how they differ (from north to south, east to west, urban to rural) and how they are the same (the same commitment to faith and scripture and community.)
I suspect this is a place where the American Muslim experience and the American Jewish experience are parallel. Both of our traditions are minority traditions in this country, and it's easy to imagine that we only exist in certain pockets of the country or that the way our traditions are practiced in one place (be it New York or Los Angeles, Dearborn or Boro Park) is the way they're practiced everywhere. But as a Jew who grew up in the southwest, and who now lives in rural Massachusetts, I have some sense of some of our diversities (different types of buildings, different types of communities, different prayerbook choices and modes of prayer) and of what unifies us across geography and demographics. I get the sense that the American Muslim community is both unified and diverse in many of the same ways. That's part of what I enjoyed seeing in this ESPN piece about these two athletes traveling the country during Ramadan.
Anyway, the Outside the Lines piece is lovely. I'm impressed with these two men, with their commitment to their faith, and with their willingness to be filmed while engaging in this spiritual quest.
(In case you're curious, there are a few Jewish players in the NFL too, though not very many. See, e.g., Schwartzes first Jewish brothers in NFL since 1923.)