MONTREAL – For some, basketball is a hobby. But for the Muslim Women’s Summer Basketball League, it’s a passion and a mission to prove to the world that nothing can stand in the way of a talented baller.
“Islam doesn’t whatsoever say a Muslim woman shouldn’t take part in sports,” said Fitryiya Mohamed, founder and executive director of the MWSBL.
“Islam actually encourages Muslims, like literally every Muslim, to participate in some sort of physical activity, to always be fit, because that’s what Islam is, you know–there are certain things we don’t consume because it’s not good for our health.”
Mohamed immigrated to Canada from Ethiopia and began school here when she was 10 years old.
She fell in love with basketball in high school but didn’t see a lot of girls that looked like her on the court.
When she graduated from university, she launched the first Muslim Women’s Summer Basketball League in Canada, a space where girls just like her can practice their passion without compromise.
“Showing the rest of the world that, ‘Hey, yeah, I can wear a hijab but I can also shoot a three-pointer. And I can wear a hijab but I can do a layup, and I can play on a sports team.’ It’s just not having to compromise. And not feeling as though I’m somehow unwelcomed or less than anybody else. And I can do everything that anybody else is doing within my own terms,” explained Melissa McLetchie, a member of the MWSBL advisory board.
“Sport is a big part of Canadian society. As we’ve seen with the Toronto Raptors winning the championship, it was something that every single community felt like they were a part of. So, I think it’s important for hijabi and non-hijabi women, Muslim girls in general, that they are a part of this society and part of this community and that nothing should stand in their way,” said Samiha Arshad, the MWSBL’s director of programs and tournament manager.
The league is scheduled to launch this summer if COVID-19 restrictions permit. In the meantime, they’ve been sharing stories of inspirational Muslim female players from around the globe on Instagram in hopes of encouraging other Muslim girls to pursue their athletic dreams.
“Embrace your difference. There are times where you are going to be walking in a room, you are going to be the only one that’s different. But embrace that, beautify that. Don’t feel discouraged. You’re in that room because you belong in that room and they invited you because you have something to say, so own that, beautify it, and just take up the room,” said Mohamed.