Athlete succeeds underneath hijab

Athlete succeeds underneath hijab

Alyssa Piecko

Sophomore Mubinah Khaleel practices throwing the discus after school. Photo provided by Mubinah Khaleel
As soon as sophomore Mubinah Khaleel saw the discus hit the ground, she knew all the two-and-a-half-hour track practices had paid off. When the official called out Khaleel had thrown 100 feet and two inches, happiness overwhelmed both she and her coach. Khaleel had surpassed her personal goal.
“All the coaches and the players that were watching were really excited,” Khaleel said. “And that was like my goal for the year, to pass 100 feet.”
Track and field brings additional enjoyment into athletes’ lives when they pass personal ambitions or school records. They make a lot of friends, gain more athletic ability and have a good time playing their sport.
But Khaleel has an extra struggle to overcome that makes her experience a little less enjoyable: her Muslim culture requires her to wear a hijab and long sleeves at all times, even during track meets and practice.
Even though this way of dress can occasionally provide discomfort in certain weather conditions, Khaleel has decided she wants to fight through the heat and uphold her religious traditions. Being questioned about her reasons for wearing this clothing is normal for Khaleel. She just wants to inform people about why she is sticking with her religion and how important it is to her.
“A lot of people have asked me about it. They don’t have a problem with it; they were just asking me why I wear it, what religion I’m from and what the requirements [are],” Khaleel said. “It’s normal so I just like answering their questions so they can have a little knowledge about it.”
Taking these extra steps to participate in sports makes her an admirable person in her mosque. She inspires others while recieving  the support that her peers give her.
Other members of the local Muslim community go above and beyond to cheer for Khaleel in her athletics. Khaleel feels supported by their presence at her meets.
“A lot of people from my religion don’t really do sports and so I just like doing the sports I do and that I can make a difference,” Khaleel said. “Showing them you can do it and you can push through all these struggles, even though you’re hot… show[s] people you’re a strong person and you don’t let anything break you down.”
Being Muslim and participating in athletics also brings up more conflicts in scheduling than most students in school sports.
“Well, sometimes, like on Fridays, when we have a meet,” Khaleel said. “And I go to church on Friday evening so sometimes I can’t go because I have a meet.”
Comparing track and her mosque, Khaleel said she wouldn’t miss a track meet for weekly trips to the mosque. Although she supports her religion with her clothing choices, she doesn’t regret these priorities she’s put into action.
“I would go to the track meet because I can go like any Friday [to the mosque],” Khaleel said. “So basically, we have lectures each Friday and so usually my friends go so they can give me like a recap of what happened.”
As well as support from her family and friends in her decisions and optimism, her coaches have also encouraged and supported Khaleel this season. They allowed her to choose what she wanted to wear  for meets, informing officials about her religious beliefs so she is not penalized for her choice of clothing.
Alicia Hunt, Khaleel’s coach, thinks Khaleel is blessed for the skills she has in her sport and is proud of her achievements throughout the year, especially that she wears her type of dress.
“It would be really easy for a coach or an official to throw a fit about it or have some questions, but everybody is very respectful of her religious beliefs and I completely support it,” Hunt said. “Sometimes I don’t know how the heck she does it– it’s 90 degrees outside. But I’m really proud of her for representing her religion and still going out there and getting stuff done.”
Khaleel not only continues to set goals for herself but also is attempting to break a school record for shot put and discus. Khaleel is around five feet away from beating the discus record and is hopeful about breaking the record before she leaves RBHS in two years.
Even though at times, Khaleel may have to face a few challenges in dressing in the clothes she wears, she wants to stay faithful to her religion. Sometimes it is hard to do, but she bears the setbacks all for the sport she appreciates.
Track “has changed my life because I am able to prove to myself that I can still follow my religious obligations and achieve my goals in track at the same time,” Khaleel said. “I am able to go above and beyond what I can do.”
By Alyssa Piecko