When Ramadan is around the corner, many of us start to look forward to all the blessings this month brings. Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) has said Ramadan is “when the gates of heaven are opened, and the gates of hell are closed, and the devils are chained.” It is a time to reflect on our ‘deen,’ our relationships with God, and more generosity and charity. It is a time to focus on strengthening our spiritual connection. However, generosity, charity, and strengthening spiritual connections are all easier to do when you are not fighting battles at school to be allowed to do so — especially in PE class.
Preparing for Ramadan this year, my sisters mentioned to the teachers of their PE courses that they would not be participating in the workout of those classes as they would be fasting. For my sister, who is in the Volleyball class, the workouts consist of weight training and intensive conditioning. Even for people who choose to work out during Ramadan (kudos to them), the recommended exercise is usually jogging or yoga.
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Moreover, the best time to work out during Ramadan is near iftar, before suhoor, or after iftar according to Fitness First and Insider. The cardio that my sister’s 90-minute Volleyball class calls for is not healthy — as is the running laps requirement in my other sister’s PE class. That did not stop their non-Muslim coaches from insisting that they had to participate in these workouts.
However, it is not their initial responses that are most appalling.
My sister’s volleyball class coach is also her coach on-season when she is on the junior varsity team. After my sister reiterated that she would be fasting and taking a break from the physical parts of volleyball class he responded with, “There are 9th and 8th-grade girls looking for a spot on that JV team. Is that what you want?” Insinuating that my sister would not make the team because of a religious obligation is not something we really expect to see in 2022.
This is only a single story in the larger trend of aggression and microaggressions toward Muslims who practice publicly, and I am not just referring to the incessant “not even water” comments made by that same colleague every year. According to Pew Research center, “More than six-in-ten U.S. adults (63%) say that being Muslim hurts someone’s chances for advancement in American society at least a little, including 31% who say it hurts their chances a lot.”
My sisters are becoming another value in this statistic, but while my family waits on the school to sort out this situation, we are taking Ramadan as a special time to pray, self-reflect, and remain hopeful for change.