Pro-Football Game Erupts During Muslim Prayer Service at Giants Stadium

By Douglas J. Hagmann, Director

2 November 2005: It was the middle of the first quarter in a game between the New York Giants and the New Orleans Saints at the Meadowlands on September 19, 2005 when five Arab Muslim men found a location near a concrete pillar and prostrated themselves on the ground as part of their daily Muslim prayer ritual, startling a number of fans in attendance who considered their behavior as “suspicious.”

Following their entry into the stadium, the five found an open space near the concrete pillars by walkways and escalators at Gate D and began to pray amid the first quarter. Other fans notified stadium security officers who visually identified them and watched as they walked to their seats. During the third quarter, security personnel asked the men to accompany them to a quieter location within the stadium where they were questioned and later permitted to return to the game. Some eyewitness accounts suggest that at least one of the men possessed camera equipment and was observed taking photos of various parts of the stadium.

In an interesting coincidence, FBI agents were present at that game because former President Bush (once the target for assassination by Islamic terrorists) was present to promote fundraising efforts he and former President Clinton had launched to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. The game was originally scheduled for New Orleans, but was switched to Giants Stadium because of the hurricane damage.

Although allowed to return to the game, the five men were so angered by being “profiled” that they instead opted to leave the stadium and ultimately, retain a lawyer. Sohail Mohammed, a lawyer for one of the men, stated: “This is a classic example of “if you want to pray, you’ll have to pay.” These folks were exercising their fundamental right to practice their faith, and they wanted to enjoy, as Americans, their favorite sport.”

Although one of the men expressed fears of being harassed by the incident, those concerns must have abated as the five Islamic men plan to detail their experiences at a news conference Wednesday in New York “designed to foster greater understanding of Islam and the religious practices of Muslims.”

The New York Giants won over the Saints, 27-10.