Rayan Dhamuke, 12, doesn’t get to swim a lot, unlike her brothers. During the past summer, she had to visit the pool at 5 a.m. so that she would have the privacy she needed to enjoy the water while still adhering to her family’s cultural and religious beliefs.
To better accommodate girls like Dhamuke, the downtown St. Paul YMCA, in partnership with the St. Paul Police Department, has started a swim group for Somali-American girls. The group, which began in October, is serving as an outlet for girls ages 5 to 17 to learn the basics of swimming..
One evening last week, the din of girls’ laughter and splashes filled the windowless, humid pool room of the St. Paul downtown YMCA.
“Anybody want to try jumping in one more time?” asked an instructor.
“Me! Me! Me!” shouted a chorus of eager beginners, who wore mostly shirts and pants with their heads uncovered.
The group of about 25 girls, who were quiet and reserved earlier in the evening, seemed to come alive while in the water. With each jump, kick and splash, their confidence appeared to grow.
It’s a “night-and-day difference” from the first week when girls hesitated, not wanting to jump in and clinging to the walls of the pool, too afraid to let go, said Morgan Johnson, director of healthy living at the downtown YMCA. Now, they dive in. Even one of the mothers watching Tuesday’s lessons decided to jump in and go for a swim.
“We’ve moved kids from being afraid of the water to really being able to tread water,” said Mary Britts, executive director for the downtown YMCA.
NAUERT: Well the minority becoming the majority at one community pool. Sharia law is now changing everything. A YMCA in Minneapolis-St. Paul is starting a swim group for Muslim girls but special considerations have to be made to keep with their religious beliefs. Now this means during the one-hour class, the pool is being shut down, the men’s locker room is being locked, and female lifeguards are being brought in. Similar classes are now starting at towns across the Midwest. We’ll keep watching this story for you.
Fox News’ decision to cite this story as evidence of “Sharia law” spreading through the country fits with the network’s history of pushing Islamophobia and the myth of “creeping Sharia.” In recent history Fox has led a smear campaign against Park51, an Islamic community center near the World Trade Center, claiming it would potentially be a haven for terrorists. The network has also been known to invite discredited anti-Muslim guests on its shows to push fears about Muslims. Fox’s pattern of Islamophobia has now reached the new low of presenting swimming lessons for young girls as a problem so worrisome that Nauert promised to “keep watching this story.”
The local JCC where Lord Of The Pies go swimming every week also has times set aside for “women only” and for “men only” but nobody is freaking out about that.