On Sunday, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, humanitarian, 6-time NBA MVP, and New York Times bestselling-author of Mycroft Holmes (2015) appeared on CNN's FAREED ZAKARIA GPS. Abdul-Jabbar and Fareed Zakaria spoke about Islam and Islamophobia in America and the 2016 election. The full transcript of the interview may be found after the jump.
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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on Trump’s comments regarding Muslims: “I thought that what he had to say was outrageous. It certainly contradicts our Constitution, something that the President of the United States is obliged to uphold and defend, and religious discrimination is not part of what America is supposed to be about. And here he is saying that it's OK to discriminate and have Muslims on watch lists, and we're going to shut down some masjids, and a lot of things that are illegal and immoral. And, you know, I had to say something.”
FULL INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, CNN GPS: That was President Obama on Wednesday on his first visit to a mosque in the United States. His speech came less than two months after Donald Trump - the man who would like to take Obama's job - put forth a proposal to ban all of the world's 1.6 billion Muslims from entering the United States temporarily.
A recent Pew poll finds 59 percent of Americans think Muslims here face "a lot of discrimination," and 76 percent say that that discrimination is on the rise. Meanwhile, only a little over 50 percent of Americans say they actually know a Muslim.
So let me re-introduce you to one. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was born Lew Alcindor. In high school, college, and then the pros, the 7-foot-2 center burned up the basketball court, winning awards and setting records. But then before his third NBA season, he did something relatively unheard of - he converted to Islam and took the name we now all know him by.
Although Kareem Abdul-Jabbar retired from basketball 27 years ago, he remains the highest scorer to ever play the game. with more than 38,000 points. He also remains one of America's most prominent Muslims.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, pleasure to have you on.
KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR, FORMER NBA STAR: It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you.
ZAKARIA: So when you heard Donald Trump talk about banning all Muslims, you put your hand up and said, I'm a Muslim
Why did you do that? You're usually very private about these things.
ABDUL-JABBAR: I thought that what he had to say was outrageous. It certainly contradicts our Constitution, something that the President of the United States is obliged to uphold and defend, and religious discrimination is not part of what America is supposed to be about.
And here he is saying that it's OK to discriminate and have Muslims on watch lists, and we're going to shut down some masjids, and a lot of things that are illegal and immoral. And, you know, I had to say something.
ZAKARIA: When you came out, as it were, Donald Trump sent you a note...
ZAKARIA: - in which he said you don't understand how to make America great. What was your reaction to that note?
ABDUL-JABBAR: My reaction to that note was encouraging religious discrimination definitely will not make America great. So, you know, what is he talking about me?
And some of the things that he's advocated and proposed are completely ridiculous and will not work. It's impossible. He's talking about carpet bombing and - that's genocide. You know, just indiscriminate bombing of a - of a human population.
You know, we do things differently here in America. And I hope that he doesn't get the opportunity to change the way that we do things.
ZAKARIA: You weren't born Muslim.
FAKARIA: So you've had a journey. Tell us a little bit about how - how did you - what made you decide to become Muslim?
ABDUL-JABBAR: I started to investigate Islam after I read "The Autobiography of Malcom X" while I was a freshman at UCLA. I read his autobiography and I really was taken by what he had to say about Islam. And I started to investigate it.
ZAKARIA: So when you hear people say, you know, Islam is a religion of violence or talk about how it has within it things that encourage a certain kind of exclusion or hatred, what do you say?
ABDUL-JABBAR: I would say that those references really are to historical issues that were happening during the time of the Prophet. And unless you understand that, you can misinterpret those verses in the Quran.
But, you know, the Quran tells us to seek peace and to encounter people giving them the benefit of the doubt and trying to do it in a - in a peaceful - in a peaceful way that inspires mutual respect - that is what we're supposed to try to seek. So, you know, it all made sense to me.
ZAKARIA: You're - this is - you're a private person. You've been very reluctant to talk about these kind of issues. Do you feel like, you know, you've said your piece and now you want to go back to the - you know, because you've been involved in a lot of charities. You've been involved in doing a lot of good work.
But this is - you don't want to be battling Donald Trump, I take it, for the - for the next few years.
ABDUL-JABBAR: Oh, no, I'm not interested in getting into the middle of the political melee that's going on right now. I - it's interesting, though. It - I hope that America wakes up and sees how dangerous it can be to indulge in these types of thoughts.
Doing things the right way involves a lot of hard work. And sometimes that puts people off. And they're looking for simple solutions to problems that are not simple and that require a lot of hard work and require some patience. And that seems to be in short supply right now.
ZAKARIA: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, pleasure to have you on, sir.
ABDUL-JABBAR: Oh, it's a pleasure to be here. Thank you.