Meeting Challenges, Challenging Stereotypes

May 6, 2007

Author: Stephen A. Norris

Source: The Washington Post

Playing tennis makes no sense to most of Raheela Fazal's Muslim friends. Is it for grades, they ask? No. Does the Potomac senior do it because of a punishment? No.

"I tell them it makes me happy, and it's fun," Fazal said. "It's not just standing around. It makes me feel good."

By participating in tennis, Fazal, 19, also is challenging stereotypes within Islamic culture about Muslim women. Fazal said the traditional role of Muslim women is to care for the home.

"Many of the Muslims today are probably second- or third-generation," said Rabiah Ahmed, a spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "Their parents or aunts and uncles still have that mentality that Muslim women didn't have those opportunities [to play sports], or maybe it was only the norm for the upper class. I think that is changing now."

Fazal made a pact with her parents that if she got any C's on her report card she would stop playing tennis. Though there was some uneasiness among family members at first, Fazal said, they have accepted it.