Home Blog Uncategorized A scene so common at the World Cup, so mistreated in Pembroke Pines | SunSentinel
A scene so common at the World Cup, so mistreated in Pembroke Pines | SunSentinel

A scene so common at the World Cup, so mistreated in Pembroke Pines | SunSentinel

By Samir Kakli and Wilfredo Ruiz

OPED and picture originally published in SunSentinel on December 15, 2022. Read it here.

(Picture: A group of Muslim men offer evening prayers before the start of the World Cup, group A soccer match between Qatar and Ecuador outside the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi) (Aijaz Rahi/AP))


World Cup athletes from around the globe prostrating in prayer in the middle of the soccer field has become a common sight in international media outlets covering the most-watched sports event on Earth. Muslim players prostrate in gratitude to God after victory; this is an act of thankfulness and humility thanking the one who created them in the first place, without whom they would not even be in existence.

The Muslim prayer encourages the worshiper to combat all mental distractions and focus on conversing with their God. What happens when an unexpected and unwelcome disruption occurs?

Prayer in Islam requires one to temporarily disconnect from the distractions of the world and delve into a conversation with the Lord. During prayer, no one would ever imagine being disrupted, even by children in their own homes, except for an emergency. Sadly, that was not the case last week in a viral video depicting students at a Pembroke Pines school who were fulfilling their own religious obligations. Having asked for and been granted religious accommodation, they found in their teacher an aggressor who bullied and insulted them, disrespecting their religious beliefs, their rights and even their physical safety.

The teacher walked over them, accusing them of doing “magic,” claiming authority to interrupt because she “believes in Jesus.” Muslims, for the record, believe in Jesus as well; Jesus would not have interrupted anyone praying to God.

There is no room for tolerance of ignorant reactions and aggressions to sacred practices or religious rituals, and the school announced that the teacher no longer worked there. But the environment that allowed this to happen remains; we must as one society take this moment to reflect on a path forward. There is hurt and fear in our community. We are all worried for our children. They are protected today, but will they be protected tomorrow, next year, and every year while praying at schools?

Our prayer forms are all based on sources going back more than 1,400 years recording how the Prophet Mohammed and the prophets before him, including Jesus, prayed. The Islamic prayer entails a series of actions, starting with performing ablution. One must then find a clean place, face toward the Kaaba in Mecca and begin praying by saying “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest). What follows are recitations from the Holy Quran, as well as prostrations to God Almighty, throughout which one repeatedly praises and glorifies God and asks Him to guide us. Afterward, one faces to the right and left, praying for peace and God’s blessings for those nearby. These prayers are prescribed to be performed by all Muslims at five specified times throughout each day.

We hope that the teacher who was involved in this incident can find peace and contentment in her life respecting and valuing everybody’s differences; we pray for her. We hope and pray that the victimized children may find peace and regain trust in their teachers to see them again as their protectors and educators. We pray that we all find that path forward.


Samir Kakli is president of the South Florida Muslim Federation. Wilfredo Ruiz is communications director of CAIR-Florida.

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