As one of three Muslims on the Portland Trail Blazers, Enes Kanter takes his role as an ambassador for the faith seriously, especially when it comes to educating others about Islam. At the end of the holy month of Ramadan, Kanter spoke with Alykhan Bijani of the Athletic about what it means to be a Muslim athlete in the NBA and teaching his teammates about his faith.
“When I first talk to my teammates, I share that I eat halal food and that I cannot just eat normal stuff,” Kanter said. “I don’t drink alcohol and don’t eat pork. My teammates always respected me. When I talk to them about these topics, they have a lot of questions, but (they) are always very respectful and make me feel comfortable.”
Kanter shared what it means to be Muslim to him.
“I think being Muslim is about patience, humanity, love, forgiveness, kindness and remembrance of Allah,” Kanter said of what he shares with those interested in converting to Islam. “My faith is everything to me. It gives me a lot of discipline and drives me to play harder. (As a Muslim NBA player), I am not just representing my family and my country, but also my faith. It’s a huge responsibility on your shoulders. Being Muslim is about respect and trying to bring peace and love to the world.”
Observing Ramadan has a particular role in Kanter’s life.
For Kanter, Ramadan is a yearly reflection point when he can focus on bettering himself as both a player and person. “Ramadan is about relaxing your body, your soul, and focusing on your inner peace and empathy for others,” Kanter said.
To Kanter, it’s important to bring awareness about Islam to others, so that Muslims will be accepted.
“My goal is when I finish my career, Muslim players, coaches, and employees that come after me will feel very secure and comfortable about (practicing) their religion,” Kanter said. “I want them to live free and live their religion in a comfortable way. I have actually been reaching out to Muslim athletes around the NBA and other sports leagues to see what we can do to bring more awareness.”
Eid Mubarak to Enes Kanter, Jusuf Nurkic, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson — and to all who celebrate!
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