Students open up about unique religious practices


Photo by Regan Sullivan.

By Christina Burke
Managing Editor

Covered modestly from head to toe, sophomore Nesma Hassan attends JV basketball practice every morning, her custom uniform embracing her Islamic traditions.

In the Muslim community, once a woman has reached puberty, she must wear a hijab as a symbol of modesty. The hijab is accompanied by long pants and long sleeved shirts. Last summer, Hassan was ready to begin wearing her hijab, and had to make appropriate adjustments to the way she lived and, particularly, played basketball.

Photo by Regan Sullivan.
Photo by Regan Sullivan.

After reaching this new phase of life, Hassan’s greatest fear was having to sacrifice her love of basketball for her Muslim lifestyle.

“I had a 10 percent chance in mind that I might have to quit, but I really didn’t want to because it was something I really loved,” Hassan said. “I was determined to try to find a way to play without being aided at the same time.”

After intently researching, Hassan proposed an idea that her coach fully supported.

“I wanted to keep playing basketball, but I was sort of scared about how I was going to dress,” Hassan said. “They wear shorts and cut shirts, and I wore that last year, but it’s different for me now. I did some research and I got soccer training pants, nike shirts to go under my uniform, and a cotton hijab that would keep me cool during practice and games. It’s worked out really well.”

Hassan’s mother, Sohier Mohsen, saw the passion her daughter felt for basketball, and was completely behind her decision to play in her modified uniform. Though radiantly proud, Mohsen was initially concerned about how people would react to Nesma’s decision to wear the hijab.

“I thought [Nesma] was going to be worried about being ‘accepted’ on the team, but I was so surprised to see that this did not even cross her mind,” Mohsen said. “I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried. There are so many stereotypes about the hijab that have arose over the years as the result of people being unknowledgeable of the religion and the significance of the head cover. I was beyond happy to see her team and coaches being so supportive of her decision to start wearing the hijab.”

However, Hassan has received nothing short of respect in sporting her hijab, and wears it with pride, knowing that she is setting an example of respect and dignity.

“When I put [the hijab] on, I noticed a big change,” Hassan said. “People were respecting me more because they knew it was part of my religion. It’s a good feeling to know that a lot of people look up to me. I’ve gotten a few words that people know me around the school because of how I dress modestly, and other hijabies look up to me on how to dress stylish and respectively. It’s a really good feeling.”

Although Islam is not a prominently publicized religion within CHS, Hassan has aspirations to change that in the near future.

“My sister went to CHS, and she was always telling me about the idea that we should have a MSA (Muslim Students Association),” Hassan said. “This is an organization where Muslims could gather together and just talk about their day, problems and stuff like that. In the next year or so, I am hoping to execute that.”

Senior Steven Leach is another student who lives as a religious minority within CHS. Leach practices Mormonism, a branch of Christianity that can be easily misconcepted.

Photo by Alyssa Frost.
Photo by Alyssa Frost.

“A lot of people get the FLDS (Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) mixed up with the regular LDS (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) because they’re known on reality TV,” Leach said. “Everyone kind of assumes that I have four moms, but we don’t practice polygamy.”

Besides just simply explaining their beliefs, Mormon students live a life dedicated to growing in and sharing their faith. Leach and a handful of other Mormon students at CHS attend seminary every morning before school, and are held to certain standards.

“Mormons are kind of known for having different standards than other people,” Leach said. “For example, modesty is a big standard for girls. Trying not to swear, and to be polite to everyone are just things we strive to do.”

Leach is very open about his religion, and is comfortable with getting questioned about his beliefs.

“There are a lot of times I have to explain myself, but I don’t really mind,” Leach said. “I like it when people ask me about Mormonism. I would rather people ask me than look up answers from a place on the Internet that’s not actually correct. I love to answer questions about my faith.”

Junior Taylor Abramson knows how it feels to be looked upon differently because of her religion. Abramson practices Judaism, and often finds herself having to explain what she believes.

“If you go back a long way in history, other religions didn’t get along at all, so I feel like sometimes people will give me a look because they are a different religion,” Abramson said. “When people in my classes find out [that I’m Jewish], they ask me questions. It’s a lot of explaining, but I don’t mind. There has never been an instance that was unbearable.”

As a member of the Lariette Drill Team, Abramson has had instances where religious holidays have conflicted with performances, but her coach and teammates have been very understanding. This year, Jewish holiday Yom Kippur happened to fall the on the same night as the annual Lariette Spaghetti Dinner.

Photo by Regan Sullivan.
Photo by Regan Sullivan.

“Being a Lariette, all of my team members know that I am Jewish,” Abramson said. “Sometimes I get questions about that because every year, I have to miss school for certain holidays that fall on school days. [This year,] I wasn’t at the spaghetti dinner, and I couldn’t perform at the game because I was praying in religious services. It was a big deal, and it’s not something I could have missed.”

Abramson is not at all resentful that her fellow Lariettes do not share her beliefs, but instead her teammates respect her on a completely different level.

“Missing practice for religious holidays is something very honorable to do,” junior Lariette head of chaplin Caitlin Nutt said. “She is so true to it, and I think it’s great that she is so into it and can follow through with it because there’s a lot of people that don’t have that ambition. Taylor is one of my good friends, and I like to ask her about her religion, but do it in a respectful way.”

Although there are only a handful of Jewish students at CHS, Abramson stands with anyone who freely expresses their beliefs.

“I know that most the students at this school are Christians,” Abramson said. “Christianity shows in different sporting events, but stuff like that doesn’t really bother me. I’d rather there be people who are voicing their religion than no religion at all because religion is a way that guides your life. If you don’t believe in anything, what morals do you have?”

Faith is a common bond for even the most diverse of students. It is encouraging to know that those who do not share the same beliefs can come together in a mutual respect for one another. That is the beauty of religious freedom.

“It is very important for students and friends to respect all religions and beliefs,” Mohsen said. “Our country is such a beautiful melting pot of different religions and beliefs, and in order for us to maintain this sense of diversity, we have to be able to be acceptive of each others’ beliefs.”