If you’re an LSU basketball fan, one story which might have been supremely disappointing over the past 20 years is that of former Tiger scoring machine Chris Jackson, who changed his name to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf following a conversion to Islam and subsequently refused to stand for the national anthem while playing in the NBA, among several incidents marking him as at least somewhat unfriendly to his country.
There is a story behind Jackson’s conversion, and it’s one which needs to be told in light of recent events – because Jackson/Abdul-Rauf isn’t just a guy who decided to be a Muslim.
Chris Jackson converted to Islam in 1991 at a Salafi mosque in Denver while playing with the Nuggets. Salafi Islam, which includes the Wahhabism of Saudi Arabia and Deobandism of Pakistan and India, is the most ardently intolerant and aggressive form of Islam. Jackson attended that mosque until he left Denver for Sacramento in 1996.
The Imam at Abdul-Rauf’s mosque from 1994-96 was a cleric born in New Mexico who at various times in his career served in San Diego and in northern Virginia. While in northern Virginia, that same Imam ministered to a guy named Nidal Malik Hasan, who went on to become the Fort Hood terrorist.
The name of that Imam is Anwar al-Awlaki. Shortly after September 11th, Awlaki was identified as an Al Qaeda operative and he fled under pursuit from the FBI to Yemen.
Evidence indicates that Awlaki was in touch via email with Hasan in the weeks leading up to the Ft. Hood Massacre.
More recently, a man named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab who studied under Awlaki in Yemen tried to detonate a bomb on an airliner in the skies above Detroit on Christmas Day.
Awlaki announced in just the last 36 hours that he did in fact help train Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
We now also know that a man named Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, who shot two US Army soldiers (killing one) outside a Little Rock Army Recruiting Center last May, had traveled to Yemen and studied under Awlaki.
While it does not appear that Awlaki was the individual who converted Jackson to Islam, he was the Imam preaching at the mosque when Jackson suddenly stopped standing during the National Anthem before basketball games, which largely ruined him in the public eye. Jackson exacerbated the outcry when he explained his refusal to honor America by saying the flag was a “symbol of oppression” and that the United States had a long “history of tyranny.” These are the same things that Awlaki has regularly preached and continues to do so today from his terrorist training camp in Yemen.
Interestingly, former Houston Rockets center and NBA Hall Of Famer Akeem Olajuwan, who has been a mainstream Muslim since birth, told the media that he never heard of any such prohibition against standing during a National Anthem as Chris Jackson claimed Islam commanded him to do. Clearly, the teachings Jackson received as he was converted were not ordinary within the Muslim world.
Awlaki was not the only monster at that mosque in Denver. The Vice President of the Denver Islamic Society in 1991 was a man named Ziyad Khaleel, a Palestinian-American, now believed dead, who served as Osama bin Laden’s personal procurement agent as an al-Qaeda member. Khaleel delivered to bin Laden computers, satellite telephones, including the phone the latter reportedly used to order the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, and covert surveillance equipment. It was the billing record of the phone Khaleel delivered to bin Laden, in fact, which led the FBI to identify Awlaki as a possible al-Qaeda affiliate.
Abdul-Rauf lasted two years in Sacramento, then departed for Turkey in 1998 where he played a year for Fenerbahçe Ülker. He returned to the NBA and played for the Vancouver Grizzlies for one season before engaging in an overseas nomadic existence, prolonging his career with teams in Russia, Italy and Greece before settling in Saudi Arabia and most recently catching on with a team in Japan.
It’s painful to say given the great memories he gave LSU fans, but Chris Jackson is part of something truly nefarious. I am certainly not saying he is a terrorist, but two of the leaders of that Denver mosque in the 1990s absolutely were and the Salafi sect of Sunni Islam is inherently violent, intolerant and aggressive, and thus an enemy of the free world.
It’s unfortunate, and it’s upsetting, and it hits close to home. But it’s the truth.