CORALVILLE — One girl keeps her hijab tucked into her jersey, while another twists the ends of hers into a tight knot at the nape of her neck.
Mia Khalid, a 14-year-old basketball player, keeps hers tied tightly below her hairline — “like how you tie your shoes,” she explains — letting the long, blue hijab fall over her shoulders.
It took some time before Mia found a reliable way to keep her hijab secure during basketball practice at Northwest Junior High in Iowa City, she said.
“It’s kind of difficult because my hijab could fall out during a game or practice,” Mia said. “And in basketball, you know, you can’t just stop to go pick up your hijab.”
It’s a struggle that one parent noticed at a game last school year, prompting her to start a fundraiser to buy the school 30 sport hijabs made of sweat-wicking, lightweight material.
The parent, Charity Nebbe, completed the fundraiser — bringing in nearly $1,000 — in just one day last week.
“I thought if we could provide sport hijabs to the Muslim girls at Northwest Junior High, it would not only allow them to fully participate in the sport, it would give them the freedom to compete at their best and try their hardest,” said Nebbe, who also hosts Talk of Iowa on Iowa Public Radio. “And it would also send a real message of inclusion: Yes, you are a valued part of the team, and we want you to participate.”
The athletic hijabs should arrive this week, Nebbe said, and the school’s basketball players will be the first to wear them.
“I hope this inspires other people to do this for their schools, too,” she said. “But it does make we wonder if it would be possible to raise enough money to provide hijabs for all the schools in the Iowa City Community School District.”
About 20 Muslim girls who prefer to wear a hijab are playing basketball this school year, Assistant Principal Mitch Gross said, and providing the girls with the hijabs should make it easier for them to participate more fully in athletics.
“I think it will have a positive impact on our students,” Gross said. “One of the things (Principal) Ms. Bruening and I are committed to is removing barriers to participate in the great extracurricular activities we have here.”
Gross said he’s never had a student say to him that her hijab hindered her ability to play a sport but, since Nebbe’s fundraiser, many Muslim athletes have expressed excitement about soon receiving a hijab made for being on the court.
Mia’s coach, Leah Doster, said she also has never heard the girls on her eighth-grade team complain about their hijabs.
But she remembers once watching Mia’s fall into her eyes as she went for a layup.
“I had never even thought of the idea of a basketball hijab,” Mia said. “I didn’t know there was hijab for sports, but I was like, ‘That’s a pretty good idea.’”
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