Noor Ahmed outwardly lives her Muslim religion, and even rising up in a state as numerous as California she says she encountered hostility on the road, at school and on the golf course.
One of many high junior golfers in Northern California popping out of highschool, Ahmed was a starter in her first yr at Nebraska and the No. 2 participant most of this spring. She is believed to be the one golfer on the faculty degree or greater who competes in a hijab, the scarf worn in adherence to the Muslim religion.
Arriving in Lincoln two years in the past, Ahmed sensed hesitancy from teammates largely from small Midwestern cities and unaccustomed to seeing a lady in a hijab. She did not really feel embraced till an unlucky but unifying occasion roiled the campus halfway by her freshman yr.
A video surfaced of a scholar claiming to be the “most active white nationalist in the Nebraska area,” disparaging minorities and advocating violence. The coed, it turned out, was in the identical biology lecture class as Ahmed.
Teammates supplied to stroll together with her throughout campus, and one who would grow to be her finest good friend, Kate Smith, invited Ahmed to stick with her. She did not settle for however was heartened by the gesture.
“That,” Smith mentioned, “was when she realized how much each and every one of us care for her on the team, that it wasn’t just like, ‘Hey you’re our teammate.’ No, it’s ‘We want you to be safe, we want you to feel at home here.”‘
Having grown up within the post-9-11 period, Ahmed, like many Muslims in the USA, has been a goal for bullying and verbal abuse. She started sporting the hijab in center college.
On the course, in an airport and even strolling throughout campus she will really feel the lengthy stares and notices the glances. She mentioned she has by no means been bodily threatened — “that I know of” — and that a lot of the face-to-face insults got here earlier than she arrived at Nebraska.
Social media breeding floor
A lot of the venom spewed at her now comes on social media. She has been the topic of a number of media profiles, and every sparks one other spherical of hateful messages. She acknowledges she reads however would not reply to messages and that an athletic division sports activities psychologist has helped her learn to cope with them.
“I’ve been called every racial slur in the book,” she mentioned. “I’ve been told explicitly that people who look like me don’t play golf, we don’t have a right to exist in America, you should go home. It would definitely faze me a little bit, but it never deterred me. I’m really stubborn, so I’m going to prove you wrong, just wait. When people think they’re dragging me down, it kind of fuels the fire in me that I’m going to be a better golfer, I’m going to be a better student, I’m going to keep climbing up the ladder.”
The daughter of Egyptian immigrants is from a close-knit household in Folsom, California, and he or she steeled herself for the cultural adjustment she must make at Nebraska.
She handled loneliness and anxiousness, particularly her freshman yr. She had issue discovering a help community. There’s a small Muslim group on campus, however she did not immerse herself in it. The calls for on athletes are nice, and they’re largely segregated, consuming and learning in services separate from these utilized by common college students.
‘Why would Coach convey somebody like that on the staff?’
Nebraska coach Robin Krapfl mentioned she was initially involved about how teammates would react to Ahmed. Krapfl remembered assembly together with her golfers and telling them about her.
“I could tell by a couple of the looks and maybe even a comment or two that they weren’t 100 per cent comfortable with that,” Krapfl mentioned. “A lot of our girls come from small-town communities that are very limited in their ethnicity. It’s just the fear of the unknown. They had just never been exposed to being around someone from the Muslim faith.”
Krapfl mentioned she noticed a golfer or two roll their eyes, one other shook her head. “I overheard, ‘Why would Coach bring someone like that on the team?’ “
“Luckily when she got here people could see her for who she was and the quality of person she was,” Krapfl mentioned. “It took a while. It really did. You’ve got to get to know somebody, who they really are and not just what they look like.”
Smith mentioned she generally cringes when she and Ahmed are in a gaggle and the dialog turns to politics, immigration and even vogue, like when somebody innocently or ignorantly tells Ahmed that she would look good in a brief costume or a sure coiffure.
“She can never wear a short dress, so why would you want to depict her as that?” Smith mentioned. “You have to respect her beliefs and why she’s doing it. Also, I think a lot of things are connected to women’s beauty standards and how people don’t think she can look beautiful when she’s covered. I think she’s a really beautiful girl no matter how much skin she’s showing.”
For all of the challenges Ahmed confronted, there have been positives. Some individuals have complimented her for dwelling her religion as she sees match, a Muslim teen who golfs in a hijab and lives in the UK wrote to says she attracts inspiration from her, and a participant for an additional faculty staff approached her at an occasion to inform her she not too long ago transformed to Islam and simply needed to say hello.
“I remember going and crying and, wow, I’m not alone out here,” she mentioned.
Ahmed mentioned she’s naturally shy and a bit uncomfortable with the eye, however she hopes Muslim women arising behind her are watching.
“I grew up never seeing anyone like me,” she mentioned. “Truthfully, I did not understand how a lot grief I used to be carrying, having by no means seen a picture of myself or somebody who regarded like me in common American tradition. It is a huge deal.
“Why are basketball and soccer so closely African American? If I had been black and I noticed individuals who regarded like me competing in that sport, that is in all probability the game I’d select. I believe it is actually necessary once we’re speaking about making an attempt to make golf and different sports activities and different areas in American tradition numerous, how necessary it’s to see somebody who seems to be such as you and the way it will gas different individuals’s curiosity.”
Ahmed began taking part in golf at 8, and her dad and mom inspired her to take the game to the very best degree doable. Carrying the hijab has by no means interfered together with her recreation and he or she has by no means thought-about not sporting it on the course.
“I believe Muslim ladies who select to look at it or select to not observe it have the fitting to exist in any area they need to be in,” she said, “and I’d really feel like I’d be sending a message that the hijab would not exist on this place or it should not, and I do not really feel snug with that.”