Muslim Athletes Running Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon Carry Flag to Show Their Love for America
By Waseem Abbasi

Washington, DC: A group of six Muslim-American runners will participate in the 2017 Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in Washington, DC, on March 11, with a simple message: "We are Americans and we love America too."
They plan to carry an American flag the entire length of the race and will wear jerseys proclaiming their love for America.
"We love America as much as any other American. Nobody should doubt our love for our homeland," said Agha Hasnain, the 50-state finisher.
There has been a 40% increase in hate crimes against Muslims since the Presidential elections, says Corey Saylor who is Director of the Department to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a key Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States.
Mudasar Haidat, who won the National Tennessee half-marathon in 2005, hopes that participation in the Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon will also send a message to American-Muslims.
"We want the American Muslim community to feel that the overwhelming majority in this country reciprocate their love," said Haidat.
The group of six Muslims aren't novice runners; some have been running marathons since the 1990s. Hasnain has completed marathons in all the 50 states and another runner, Zafar Shahbaz has run full marathons on all seven continents.
But this time, they are not running the course that races just two blocks from the White House for their passion alone. They realize that as American-Muslims, they need to reassure the larger American community that like all other citizens, they too are proud of America.
"It's very hard to hold a flag during the entire marathon but we are going to bear the pain to send a loud message. This is our oath of loyalty towards this country," said Agha Hasnain who came to the US from Pakistan in 1992.
Other Muslim runners attending this year's marathon include Agha Adeel, Zain Azam, Nasir Baluch and Yaseen Bajwa.
The participants are asking supporters to celebrate with them at finish line at the RFK Stadium between noon and 1 p.m. the day of the race. USA TODAY




Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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