FL: Fear and Ignorance Over Athlete's Hijab



Andrea Armstrong doesn't look like the enemy, yet she stands accused of
being a traitor. She doesn't act like the enemy, yet she's been insulted,
threatened and stalked.

Her crime? Wanting to play basketball at South Florida while being true to
her religion: Islam.

"I swear, I'll send my degree back to USF if they cave on this. But then,
she'd need to shave her beard and moustache off."

That was one of the many chat-room e-mails sent to Armstrong. She is one of
the first American athletes in the post 9-11 era who wants to practice
Islam in public. Judging by the reaction, Muslims aren't the only ones who
should be worried.

"She will be allowed to wear only one suicide belt under her robes."
Actually, Armstrong wanted to wear long pants, sleeves and a scarf while
playing, since the Islamic code calls for women's skin to be covered. Her
teammates didn't mind, but critics screamed it would open the floodgates
for individualized jewelry and clothing to be worn by every player with a
distinctive faith.

The fact is, the NCAA has been granting uniform exceptions for years. The
real problem people have isn't Armstrong wanting to be true to her
convictions. It's the convictions themselves.

"Islam condones killing. Do you condone killing?"

Look, there's no question radical Islam is at the root of most terrorism.
In the warped eyes of many, that means all 1.3 billion Muslims worldwide
are out to destroy America.

"For the record, Islam contributes NOTHING positive to Western Culture."

Tell that to all those Muslim doctors, bankers and business owners. Tell
that to the well-known sleeper cell, "Muslims For Bush." Armstrong's plan
apparently was to bring down the U.S. one free throw at a time.

"How about SHE adjust to OUR society? If she doesn't like it, she can go
back home."

SHE is from Oregon. Armstrong's been playing basketball since the third
grade, and would have been a senior at USF this season.

She is white, was raised a Catholic and felt a spiritual emptiness. Islam
filled it, so she converted in June.

In America, you're supposed to be able to do that, right?

"If you met this girl, she is so nice," Ahmed Bedier said. "She is reserved
and polite and humble."

He is the spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which
got involved after Armstrong said USF's coach told her to clean out her
locker. The school says she was never pressured to quit. After meeting with
CAIR, it decided to seek the NCAA uniform exemption..

 


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