Chicago Muslim women athletics group works to empower women in sports

Jasmine Minor Image
Wednesday, March 27, 2024
Muslim athletics group works to empower women in sports
Wednesday is Muslim Women's Day. The Chitown Muslim Athletics group is working to empower Muslim women in sports.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A group of local Muslim women in Chicago are redefining what it means to be an athlete.

The groups says they were often forced out of playing sports because of their attire tied to their faith.

For most of the women in the Chitown Muslim Athletics group, as kids they had to give up gloves, cleats and hockey sticks because of their faith. As adults, they're empowering each other to get back in the game. For most of them, sports was their childhood dream.

"I had brought a brand new glove, brand new cleats," Chitown Muslim Athletics co-chair Aamina Aliahmed said.

Aliahmed never got to use the glove after her high school baseball coach cut her from the team.

"I didn't even know that there was cuts that were made," Aliahmed said. "She said, 'well, no, you're just not on the team.'"

She said it was because she wore a hijab, the only player on the team to do so. Now Aliahmed is surrounded by hundreds of women, who at one point were also forced to choose between faith and sport.

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"I was on the sidelines taking pictures of the women that, you know, I wanted to be with," Chitown Muslim Athletics founder Asma Farooq Shaikh said.

She said she spent years on the sidelines of basketball games, grieving the sport she loved after her high school barred her from wearing sweatpants due to her faith. It's why she started the Chitown Muslim Athletics in 2017.

"Moms would come and watch the girls play on the sidelines," Farooq Shaikh said. "And they said to us, 'mom, we want this for ourselves.'"

The athletic group has nearly 300 members in their 30s, 40 and 50s, competing in sports like hockey, volleyball and softball.

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Reema Kamran, team goalie and board member of the Muslim Civic Coalition, said the group helped her fall in love with hockey. She took it a step further by pushing the state to pass the 2021 Inclusive Athletic Attire Act, so those like her could modify uniforms for faith.

"You start to see athletes who are are revered for who they are, and their skill set versus what they look like," Kamran.

Now their focus is just to play hard.

"We've had concussions... we've had, I think we've had a couple of maybe broken bones," Kamran said.

It's a little bit of pain, but the real healing for the sisterhood comes as they give their daughters a chance to dream big.

"As a mother, to see her on the field playing with confidence... there's a part of me that is just like... hopeful, hopeful for our girls," Asma Farooq Shaikh said.