4.11.2009

the future of women's basketball is wearing a hijab

"Enlightening the Clothesminded," by Selena Roberts in Sports Illustrated.
How does she do it? In the face of triple teams, with defenders all but linking their arms like paper dolls, Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir is able to exploit the limited daylight she gets and average 42 points a game.

How does she do it? Passing Rebecca Lobo's 17-year-old Massachusetts high school mark of 2,710 career points is about as easy as bumping Julie Andrews off the hilltop, and yet Bilqis graciously eclipsed the legend in January on her way to becoming the first player in state history -- male or female -- to score 3,000 points.

How does she do it? For the last four seasons --beginning one year after her 43-point varsity debut as, yes, an eighth-grader -- the 5-foot-3 1/2 Bilqis has played for New Leadership Charter School in Springfield in full Muslim dress, arms and legs covered beneath her uniform, wearing a head scarf, or hijab.

Bilqis doesn't mind remarks rooted in curiosity; it's the questions out of ignorance that she meets with a confident rejection. "When some people come at me with, 'Oh, is that a tablecloth on your head?' -- it's like, really, don't," Bilqis (pronounced Bill-KEACE) said last Thursday, the day she ended her high school career with 51 of the Wildcats' 57 points in a regional Division III quarterfinals playoff loss. "If you're going to have that kind of question, don't ask me. But some people are truly honest in asking a question, like, 'Oh, I don't want to be rude, but why do you wear that?' That's the kind of question I'd rather answer."

Read the story here.

This is the kind of story I used to try to pounce on for girls' and kids' magazines. Not enough venues, too many writers, too few hits, and I mostly let it go. But stories like this still make me drool.

3 comments:

redsock said...

Here is a good picture.

David Heap said...

Lovely story. There was some coverage a year or so back about a girls' soccer team from Ottawa who walked out of a Québec tournament after one player was not allowed to play wearing her hijab:

http://www2.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=7cb3dd1f-4ffb-4e18-b984-186789205a19

(My apologies if you already covered this -- maybe I need to search your blog?).

I agree it would be great if there were more appetite for more coverage of these stories Laura!

Thankfully, I think the hijab is becoming pretty unremarkable in amateur schools sports in Ontario, though some other jurisdictions have a ways to go on this file...

L-girl said...

Oh yes, I wrote about that at the time. Didn't the whole team take the field wearing hijabs at some point? I may be conflating two separate stories.

Thankfully, I think the hijab is becoming pretty unremarkable in amateur schools sports in Ontario, though some other jurisdictions have a ways to go on this file...

Indeed. It varies a lot, geographically. But it also reminds me that girls excelling at sports has in itself become unremarkable, a change I've seen during my own lifetime.