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WHAT Podcast: Sports Activism, Muslim Athletes, and Playoffs with Shireen Ahmed

Cassidy and Tara are joined by writer and activist Shireen Ahmed to talk about sports activism and dive into misconceptions about Muslim athletes.

Portland Trail Blazers v Denver Nuggets - Game Seven Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Sports activist, journalist and public speaker Shireen Ahmed (@_shireenahmed_) joined the WHAT podcast to share her experience as a Muslim woman and explain some of the nuances of the religion as it pertains to professional athletes. We learned more about her role as co-host of the Burn It All Down feminist sports podcast, heard how she got started in sports activism, and talked about how people in Toronto (where she is based) are reacting to the Raptors’ trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.

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1:09 Icebreaker: What is an iconic sports moment you remember from your childhood?

5:00 Getting to know Shireen. Fell in love with soccer (football) first. Mother was a Montreal Canadian fan, learned the euphoria and joy of watching sports from her sporty family.

7:35 As a kid, being a part of a team made her feel like she fit in.

8:15 Sports helped with anxiety, helped connect with the community.

8:55 How did Burn it all Down get started.

12:35 How do you define sports activism and why it is important? In part inspired to pursue because she was denied access to play soccer because of her choice to wear a headscarf.

13:45 Sports were always meant to be inclusive, they are a shared experience, a starting point for finding common ground.

16:40 When people play a game, like soccer, they are automatically united around a ball.

18:10 How are fans in Toronto reacting to the Raptors’ season and their recent playoff success? Kawhi has been such a good fit, plays well with the players on the Raptors right now. He has really brought a lot of joy to the city.

23:30 How are people in Toronto feeling about getting through and making it to the conference finals? Watching Kawhi and Giannis is going to be fun.

25:35 Enes Kanter talk.

27:10 Learning about Muslim faith and Muslim athletes. What are some things that fans should know about Muslim players? First, it is a very personal decision, and no two Muslim athletes are alike.

28:15 Muslims who fast during Ramadan know what they are doing.

30:00 Read Kanter’s story in the Washington Post about what it is like to fast.

30:50 You don’t need to panic if you find out an athlete is fasting.

31:05 Some athletes decide not to fast. Not everyone’s story is the same. Players make their own decisions.

32:30 Fasting is not meant to destroy you physically, it is supposed to strengthen you mentally.

35:00 You can be flexible, and there are exceptions. A lot of practice in Islam is predicated on intention. That is apparent through the whole month of Ramadan.

36:45 There are thousands of years of experience of people practicing Ramadan. An athlete will not do something to put his team in jeopardy.

41:15 Part of fasting is also to feel the hunger pains of those who are less fortunate. Doing acts of good is also very important.

43:05 Other Muslim athletes for us to learn about include Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Abdul-Rauf fasted and also did not participate in the national anthem, and he was blackballed in the NBA. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was very private about his conversion to Islam.

49:02 If people are not fasting, it doesn’t make them any worse at practicing their religion. People just might not be public or want to discuss why or why not they are fasting.

50:00 Find Shireen @_shireenahmed_

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Follow Blazer’s Edge on Twitter @blazersedge, WHAT Pod @HoopsAndTalks, Tara @tcbbiggs, and Cassidy @CassidyGemmet. This week’s guest: @_shireenahmed_

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Music used in the episode: “Happy Alley” Kevin MacLeod ( Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License