You won’t find a better way to spend a few minutes today than reading the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel‘s profile of the girl’s basketball team at the Salam School on Milwaukee’s south side.
It’s an all-Muslim team.
“A lot of people think Muslim girls don’t know how to play,” their coach says.
They know how to play. They’re 6-1 on the season so far.
The school has had a waiver from the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association to compete in headscarves, sweats and long-sleeved tees, a ban that seems increasingly archaic.
“My dad was kind of against it at first — it was more of a cultural thing than religious,” said senior center Nadira Ali, whose parents emigrated from Somalia before she was born. “I eventually convinced him that when you go to college, it’s more than just about grades. They’re interested in the leadership you bring to the table.”
“I think, nowadays, it’s important to show our own kids that this shouldn’t restrict us. Who we are, where we come from, what we believe in should not be a limitation for how far we can go,” algebra teacher Ream Bahhur said. “We’ve got such great examples now, people in the Olympics, people in Congress. .. We’re breaking through a lot of stereotypes.”
They don’t usually have problems with the reaction of other teams, but sometimes the opposition’s fans — particularly in the hinterlands of Wisconsin — can be racist. But even there, the incidents are fewer now.
The girls are careful about how they respond, on and off the court, because they know some people will judge all Muslims by their actions.
“You have to be extra cautious because you feel like you’re representing a whole group of people,” Schaub said.
Midhat Farrah, who played on the first Salam boys basketball team in 2003 and now coaches the seventh-grade boys, sees them as “spreading peace through basketball.”
“They’re behaving in an Islamic way and showing people that Islam is a peaceful religion.”
Basketball can be a great teacher.