Only all-Muslim basketball team in US fights Islamophobia

Team names itself Motor City Muslims to show pride in its faith and culture

Web Desk July 23, 2015

An all-Muslim basketball team in Michigan consisting of 16-year-old boys decided to name itself Motor City Muslims to fight Islamophobia and dispel stereotypes.

Motor City Muslims is the only all-Muslim team in America and the coach chose the team's name change people’s mindsets about Muslims and Islam.

The team’s coach, Clarence Archibald, who is also a Muslim, came up with the name because he thought the team should show pride in its faith and culture. “Some of them were a little hesitant, but I pushed pretty hard. We all know Islam often is unfortunately portrayed in a negative way in the media. I wanted to be sure we were easily identifiable as an all-Muslim team because it gave us an opportunity to change people’s mindsets by showing them we’re as American as home runs and apple pie.”

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They even created a logo featuring a Jumpman-esque character dressed in traditional Arab clothing and emblazoned it on the front of their jerseys.

Due to their unusual name, the players were often stared at when they prayed between games and broke their huddle by shouting ‘Bismillah’ (in the name of Allah).

Even the other teams did not take them seriously at first. "Some teams looked at us and thought, 'Oh this is an easy win. What are they even doing here?'" said starting point guard Zeeshan Tariq, a rising sophomore at Harrison High School. "When I'd turn around during warm-ups, they'd just be fooling around on the side like they didn't even need to warm up to beat us because it would be such an easy win."

Although the team did not have anyone taller than 6 feet 3 inches, that did not stop them from winning a few 16-and-under tournament games and opponents soon learned not to underestimate them.

The team Motor City Muslims was created by Ali Altimimy, the 26-year-old youth director of the Muslim Unity Center in Bloomfield Hills, Michighan. He loves basketball as much as he loves his religion and wanted to give the boys within his community a chance to hone their talent.

Once the team was formed, both Archibald and Altimimy had their task cut out for them. They did not only have to teach the boys how to play, they also had to eradicate the cliques that the players of Indian, Pakistani and Middle Eastern descent had divided themselves into.

However, the most important task was to prepare the team to call themselves the Motor City Muslims at a time when the world viewed Islam and Muslims with fear and distrust.

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"What I told them was that they were representing Islam," Altimimy said. "If we can show people that we're ballers and we can hoop but that we're also regular young people, that would be big."

Team member, Omar Shalal, recalled an incident from a tournament at Brighton, where the other teams were laughing at them. "The other team was making fun of us before the game and acting like we were a bunch of pushovers," Shalal said. "We played one of our best games that day and blew them out. All the other teams came on the court afterward, congratulated us and said, 'Wow, you guys are actually pretty good.' They went up to one of our top players and said, 'You can go somewhere with basketball if you keep working at it.'"

Altimimy and Archibald are also discussing expanding the program by launching a couple new teams for younger players in hopes they'll get used to the competition level early and grow together.

"There are a lot of good players in the gym at the mosque I go to, but they just want to play against each other," Tariq said. "They don't ever want to go out and expose themselves against better competition and show out at tournaments and tryouts. I feel like this team helped some of our guys overcome that fear. I feel like it helped us grow and gave us a chance to show what we can do."

The boys decided to take July off to fast during Ramazan but will return to training soon to play next year in the 17-and-under division.

This article originally appeared on Yahoo

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