Dewnya Bakri loves her faith — and the feeling of sinking a three-pointer.
For much of her life, the 20-year-old Muslim has found a way to balance practicing Islam and playing basketball, including wearing a head scarf and long pants on the hardcourt, even if it’s meant taunts as she blazed trails on her middle school, high school and college teams.
Now a college senior at University of Michigan-Dearborn preparing for law school, she spends free time coaching Muslim girls and sharing what she experienced in Dearborn, home of at least 40 mosques, to help give them the confidence to follow in her footsteps.
As more covered Muslim girls take up competitive sports, Bakri and others say it’s time to get beyond merely allowing the hijab — the traditional Muslim head scarf worn for modesty — and help those wearing them feel welcome.
“It’s not like accommodating for one person anymore, it’s a group,” Bakri says.
Experts and advocates say the number of Muslim girls wearing the hijab on the court, track or field is rising because girls are growing more comfortable pursuing mainstream activities while maintaining religious traditions.
“They don’t see the barriers,” said Edina Lekovic, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council. “They take it for granted they can play in competitive sports … and work out the clothing issues at the same time.”
Even so, Bakri and current players at her former school, Fordson High, players say they’ve heard trash-talk that goes beyond the usual on-court chatter — calling them terrorists, telling them to go back to their own country.
Bakri said some coaches and referees have questioned whether she could play in a scarf and sweat pants, relenting only when her coach produced a letter from the Michigan High School Athletic Association allowing the uniform modification.