Spreading Wings at the Islamic Institute of Knowledge

By Adil James, MMNS

Dearborn–April 20–Perhaps it is hard to imagine 62 religious Muslim girls from traditional families laughing and splashing around in an Olympic-sized pool, but indeed 62 normally-hijab-wearing girls from the IIK community did just that this past Sunday in Dearborn. This is the first follow-up to a similar event last year. Last time the group was smaller, and Hajja Khalida Beydoun, in cooperation with Imam Abdul Latif Berry of IIK, plans to do girls-only swimming events at the large public swimming pool throughout the summer.

The event will be open to girls only, and the pool will be closed to men during the sessions, and the event will cost $15 per person.

Asked about how the swimming went, Ms. Beydoun explained, “Believe it or not I’m a pro, my mother always used to take us swimming.”

“I was certified as a lifeguard,” she explained.

She explained that her facility in the water was somewhat of a shock to the girls in the class who were not used to seeing their teacher in such a light. Some of them, she explained, said to her somewhat incredulously, “You’re so cool.”

“Community members had been excited about the event but worried the pool might be visible to the public,” said Ms. Beydoun, and so she, with Imam Berry, double- and triple-checked to confirm that the pool could not be seen from outside.

Speaking of all of the group activities the mosque has done with the girls, Hajja Khalida explained that “We’re like an extended family now–these girls unfortunately don’t have a venting place,” so through the girls’ activities they are given a place to unwind somewhat while still being in a Muslim environment.

The pool the girls will be using through the summer is fully equipped, with a diving board, a slide, a basketball rim, and a jacuzzi for girls and mothers 18 and older.

The dedication of the mosque to the girls has really opened a door to them into a wider world–one girl, explained Hajja Khalida, said to her that “Before, my dad never let me wear a bathing suit outside my back yard, but now he’s letting me go swimming in public.” Of course the parents can feel safe because they know that the girls will be protected by the chaperones that at once keep them sheltered from the anti-Islamic influences their families want to avoid, give them a broader and deeper understanding of Islam, and also give them a fun way to relax and vent with other girls and ladies from the community.

The swimming trip is the first of many events that the extremely active IIK program has planned for the summer, including a camping trip, a canoeing trip, graduation ceremonies, and more. The camping trip will be at a private beach and private house in northern Michigan for two days and three nights–48 girls have already signed up for this event, which was a lot of fun last year for the girls. As last year, there will be campfires, hiking through sand dunes, riding on a ferry, sightseeing, and of course Islamic lectures sprinkled in between.

“On May 7,” explained Ms. Beydoun, “We’re having a graduation celebration for the girls’ class at Byblos Hall.” The end of classes for the girls will be May 2. The girls will be arranging with some parents a dinner with Mawlid and games and prizes and gifts and some mention of Mother’s Day.

This summer at some point they hope to go even farther afield than last year. “We might also take them on an island somewhere in Ohio,” explained Hajja Khalida.

Many of the IIK girls’ activities are open to the public. For more information, please call IIK’s Public Relations Director Hajja Khalida Beydoun at 313-529-0247.


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