Defenders of Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow have responded to critics of his faith exhibitions with one consistent response: "What if he was Muslim?" The idea being that Christian-hating politically correct liberals would probably celebrate if Tebow was praying to Mecca in the end zone.
We do, of course, have examples of high-profile Muslim athletes to consider. Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul Jabbar both came in for intense criticism for their conversions to the faith—really intense criticism, which makes the "controversy" surrounding Tebow look like teatime debate by comparison. More recently—but before 9/11—Mahmoud Abdul Rauf (an NBA player) was regularly booed during the 1990s after he decided the Star Spangled Banner was an expression of "nationalistic worship" incompatible with his faith. (Some Christians think the same thing, incidentally.)
Beyond sports, though, there's been a recent example of American Muslims trying to publicly demonstrate how they intertwine their faith and lives: The TV show "All-American Muslim." And it's a useful example. Lowe's and other businesses have pulled advertising from the show under pressure from the Florida Family Association—which doesn't like the show because it depicts residents of Dearborn, Michigan as regular folks. The FFA would prefer—demands—that Muslims be shown as jihadist killers and oppressors.
And of course, we all remember the outrage that greeted the "Ground Zero Mosque" last year.
So: When Tim Tebow expresses his faith, he becomes the subject of discussion on talk shows and op-ed pages, all while making big money to promote brands like Nike. American Muslims who express their faith are lumped in with killers and concerted efforts are made not just to criticize them, but to drive them entirely from the public square.
What if Tim Tebow was Muslim? He's lucky he isn't.
* I expect this to be the last time I refer to Tebow for quite some time. For all our sakes.