Re-scheduling football practice for the predominately Muslim team at Fordson High in Dearborn, Michigan is both sensitive to religious observance and a practical solution to heat concerns. Practicing from 11pm to 4am, Muslim players can observe Ramadan, practice for the upcoming season, and stay healthy by beating the heat, as well as eating and drinking to replenish their energy.
Cutting practice wasn’t an option at football-crazy Fordson, which is coming off a one-loss season and has won four state titles and three runner-up seasons since it was established in 1928. But nobody wanted to lessen the significance of Ramadan in the Detroit suburb widely known as the capital of Arab-America.
“It feels really great,” said [Adnan] Restum, who has been fasting since he was about 10. “If we’re doing it during the day, we wouldn’t have water and it would be really hot and everything.”
Defensive tackle William Powell, one of the team’s few non-Muslims, initially thought the coach was “out of his mind,” but he’s come around. In fact, he’s even fasted.
“I’m around ’em, so I’ve tried a couple times but it’s hard,” the 17-year-old said.
I hope Powell’s quote is indicative of the rest of the team’s attitude: empathetic, camraderie-building, and moving from religious tolerance to co-celebration.
The Detroit News notes some players will fast extra days after the end of Ramadan to make up for not fasting on game days and features these quotes, showing the players’ dedication to both religious observance and football, not as conflicting commitments, but as a profound experience.
“I look forward to it,” [Rami Jawad, lineman] said. “I love challenges. We use it as motivation, both during Ramadan and in our faith. Fordson football, family and religion — it’s all connected. It’s very big to me.” “It tests your mind,” [Rabeah Beydoun, running back] said Wednesday. “Especially today. We have all our gear on. It separates the boys from the men. It’s a big deal. We’re mature. We have to fast. It’s our duty. We’re struggling together. It (Ramadan) brings back what’s important to us religiously.”
The three aforementioned players show a great perspective on fasting as a religious discipline and on their team, as a cohesive, accepting unit that sees a challenging religious observance, not as a hindrance, but as a way to bond, learn, and become better athletes.
AlterNet offers this example of how wrong the religion/public school system dynamic can go, as non-profit evangelical groups that offer speaking and programming on other issues, such as drunk driving, may also tack on altar calls and other evangelical encouragements to the program.
Marist basketball player Daye Kaba’s sports schedule hasn’t accomodated fasting.
Check out some interesting Ramadan resources at Haq Islam.