In March 1996, Mahmoud Abdul Rauf (formerly Chris Jackson), an all-star guard for the Denver Nuggets and an African American Muslim convert, was suspended by the NBA for not standing for the national anthem. Until then, Abdul Rauf had earned national headlines only for his record-setting free-throw shooting game and overcoming Tourrette Syndrome. The sudden NBA suspension and the media interest that immediately followed sparked a national debate about race, politics, religion, and freedom of speech with Abdul Rauf at center-stage. The media controversy pivoted on the question of what it means to be American and un-American, particularly for Muslims, and reveals how so many contemporary political anxieties about patriotism, racism, political correctness, freedom of speech, and Islamophobia have histories deeper than 9/11 and the War on Terror. Tracing his evolution from a media darling and icon of the American dream to an "un-American foreigner," this timely film documents the history of anti-Muslim racism and xenophobia through a simple, poignant story of one man's spiritual journey turned public trial.
"By The Dawn's Early Light: Chris Jackson's Journey to Islam" was nationally broadcast on the Documentary Channel in 2005 and 2006 and should
be coming to Netflix soon.
The film traces Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf's evolution from a media darling and icon of the American dream to an "un-American foreigner," documenting the history of anti-Muslim racism and xenophobia through a simple, poignant story of one man's spiritual journey turned public trial.
An ABC News interview with the filmmaker, Zareena Grewal, discussing the controversy over the refusal of Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (formerly Chris Jackson) to stand during the national anthem.
Chris Jackson's life always revolved around basketball, and his hard work and natural talents led to a promising NBA career. Jackson's instinctive intelligence and curiosity guided him to read "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" and led to his eventual conversion to Islam. He changed his name to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and focused his life on the tenets of his new faith. In 1996, Jackson ignited a nationwide uproar when he refused to stand for the playing of the National Anthem at the start of a game, citing his "Muslim conscience." This well-designed [film] explores both Abdul-Rauf's professional and personal journeys and their very public collision point, which takes on an entirely new perspective following the events of September 11th.
News commentary and archival articles published in The New York Times
News commentary and archival articles published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and on the web portal Philly.com
News commentary and archival articles from a variety of media sources organized into a custom archive
To provide additional context and analysis around the Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf National Anthem Controversy
Former NBA standout Mahmoud Abdul Rauf, a.k.a. Chris Jackson, learned to live with Tourette syndrome, overcome poverty, and rise above prejudice. He also converted to Islam. Unwilling to compromise his obligation as a Muslim to speak out against inequality and domination, he paid the price with his NBA career. Highly recommended.
This timely film should be of value to those interested in the place of Islam in American society as a whole, the relationship of the African American Muslim community to the immigrant Muslims in particular, and the situation of Muslims on the eve of 9-11.