Such is the brutality of militant, fundamentalist nationalism: It can destroy careers and defame people for respecting its man-made rituals that make no sense to those who think. Rituals that truly divide people on basis of descent or merely subscribing to the notion of a nation that has no link with the heaven nor any greater purpose than recognition among diversity of other nations. In the absence of a link with the Creator and Sustainer of the world, artificial notions of belonging and binding forces are conjured up to divide people into factions. Americans do tawaf (circling) of some their historic monuments just like Muslims do tawaf of Ka'aaba, built by Hazrat Ibraheem (a.s.). To them their flag is sacred, and desecrating their national anthem or such symbols is greater a sin than desecrating God's Prophets or God himself.
Islam instructs us not to vilify gods of polytheists. Under no condition is a Muslim allowed to burn American flags or vilify its artificial sacred symbols. However, no Muslim can be forced either to surrender and pay respect to such man-made idols. When NBA star Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, out of no sudden urge or outrage, but through inner reflection modeled himself not to stand up during the national anthem, whole American nation struck back as if its idols have been destroyed or desecrated. He was instantly fired from NBA some indefinite period, until he agreed to stand-up and that 'he would be permitted to do so with hands cupped together and held prominently in front of his face; he would pray during the song'. What surprised Abdul-Rauf was the attention he got; he said he didn't even think of media noticing it. Because to him it wasn't a matter of enraging American nation, but to do what's in his mind.
"Abdul-Rauf tells me he isn't sure when or why he made the decision to join his team for the anthem, why he decided to come out of that tunnel early. He did not and does not, he says, see it as any special moment of defiance. He doesn't even mention the '93 Trade Center attack; in his mind's eye there's simply no connection. Nor does Abudul-Rauf view himself as a Cassius Clay, who changed his name to Muhammad Ali and lost his heavyweight title when he refused to enter the draft for the Vietnam War. Nor does he invoke the historic moment from the 1968 Olympics when Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised fists for black power. As far as Abdul-Rauf is concerned, he was just him being him, true to his faith."
"It was slap in the face. Do what everyone else is doing." "It's honor." The list of humiliation, condemnation, vilification, insults, etc., is endless... He has a white trash can in which he keeps the stock of hate-letters from all over the USA, it was little space for more. Nonetheless, in this public opinion, many did respect his convictions and freedom of speech (that's inspiring):
Is this ritual not like blind following? Is it not from the worst kind of mental slavery? Deification of something that has no deity? The fault of Abdul-Rauf lied in his reasoning, reflection and committment to the truth.