Football and Ramadan

By Duane Shank 08-19-2010

All around the United States, high school and college football teams are beginning to practice for the fall season. This year, it coincides with the Muslim observance of Ramadan, when believers fast from food and water from sun-up to sundown. So what is a Muslim football player to do?

It's a real question for Fordson High School in Dearborn, Michigan, where Muslim students are a majority of the team. The solution? Football coach Fouad Zaban, also Muslim, is holding practices which begin at 11 p.m. and end at 4 a.m. He explained that this enables players to break their fast at sundown and attend services at the mosque before practice, and end in time for a meal and morning prayer before sunrise.

Players loved the change:

"I was really excited, I love it -- all the guys do," said running back/cornerback Rabeah Beydoun. "For one thing, it's under the lights. It's like game time. Second, we can actually eat and come out here. Third, we've got fans who come out and support us at night."

Non-Muslim players have bought into the change as well.

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.

In this time when anti-Islam feelings seem to be rapidly growing in this country, it warms this football fan's heart to see another example of how sports can bring out the best in us -- even in interfaith understanding.

Duane Shank is senior policy advisor at Sojourners.

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