Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sporting Life As A Muslim

Katharine sent me an interesting Rugby story about the first Muslim rugby international player for England.

It's not something he set out to do, but Ikram Butt has become a trailblazer for young British Asians in sport.

Born and bred in Yorkshire, he became a professional rugby league player with his hometown, Leeds, while he was still a teenager, before becoming England's first Muslim rugby international in 1995 when he played against Wales in Cardiff.

He's published a book called Tries and Prejudice about his experiences.

His book is as much a social commentary on a Muslim family growing up in the north of England during the 1970s and '80s, as it is a sporting biography

Raised in Headingley, a stone's thrown from the famous rugby ground, Ikram is about as Yorkshire as you can get. The second youngest of six children, he was brought up on a street amid the kind of multi-cultural nirvana that we rarely see today, never mind 30 years ago.

"We had an Afro-Caribbean family living opposite and they're still good friends of ours. There was an Irish family at the top of the street and an Italian family across the road. Then there were four Indian brothers who ran a mini- market which was the focal point for the street. Growing up in that environment was a wonderful experience, everyone was very friendly and there always seemed to be a street party going on."

But when Ikram and his brothers stepped outside this comfort zone, it was a different story. "When we went to some places in the city we were subjected to prejudice and racism, which was a shock to begin with. When you live in such a close-knit community like we did, you aren't used to this kind of thing."

See the original article here and another about Ikram here. It looks like the book can be found in the UK but I have not found a source for the US.

Thanks Katharine!


rhino said...

Nice story, but it may be of interest to acknowledge that,to the best of my knowledge, Ikram was a Rugby League international & not a Union player (as possibly suggested by the article logo).

Apryl DeLancey said...

You are correct and although I do mention that in the text people may get confused. I have changed the video to avoid that. Thanks!

Lindsay said...

I love when you do rugby posts! I will have to find a way to get my hands on this book. It sounds like a great biography.

Apryl DeLancey said...

I know, I want to read it too!