Muslim Girls' Sports Camp

August 12, 2000

Source: Los Angeles Times

On August 12, 2000, the Los Angeles Times reported that while adolescent girls are two times more inactive than boys, for Muslim girls who follow religious laws of modesty, the problem can be even greater. These modesty requirements "eliminate public appearances in swimsuits, shorts, visible sports bras and tank tops. Once girls reach puberty, many choose to cover their hair, legs and arms; the most conservative families insist that the clothing be baggy enough to obscure the figure." Semeen Issa and the Muslim Women's League are making it their job to show young Muslim girls that they can practice both Islam and sports. "One basic thing we try to get across here is that you can do whatever you want," said Issa, the vivacious camp director and lifelong athlete who is leading the program's third year. "Just because you wear a scarf, long sleeves and long pants, don't let it stop you." The message was heard loud and clear by the 30 campers, aged 7 to 16, "who trooped out to tackle Tae Bo, volleyball, tennis, basketball and soccer at the Westridge camp. In one room, younger girls shrieked and squealed as they punched, kicked and did Tae Bo moves" while listening to pop music. Older girls were taught how to play basketball, aided by Jumana Abdul-Malik, a Muslim who plays center on the Westridge School for Girls in Pasadena's basketball team. "Jumana and others who cover their hair said they enjoyed the questions they get about the practice as a chance to educate people about Islam. At one recent USC basketball camp, Jumana said, a girl asked her whether it was true she was an Indian who worshiped the devil. 'I was so happy they asked me; if they hadn't, they would have thought everyone who wore a scarf worshiped the devil,' Jumana said."

"When I do things like basketball," Jumana said, "people say: 'Whoa. Muslim girls are normal. They do normal things.'"