Q&A: Mixed-Gender Swimming

Dear Readers: The following question was submitted by Jami Sinclair, who is writing a book with a Muslim character and would like input from the Muslim community on whether her portrayals of Islam are accurate. Besides her questions, which I will be posting as they come up, Jami is also seeking sensitivity readers for her manuscript. Please help out if you can.

QUESTION 5:

Ack. I keep running into potential issues. I now believe Jasmine needs to be eleven. That still can give her a few years before her menses begins.

In one of the fun scenes in the book, she and the boy agents go swimming. Would an eleven-year-old girl (who is not yet wearing a hijab) be able to wear a standard swimsuit? Would she be able to swim with boys at age 11?

Again, grateful for your help.

Jami

More Questions from Jami

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5 Comments

  1. At that age, I was not allowed to wear bathing suits. I had to still cover (t-shirt, pants, head scarf) Nowadays, we have modest swimwear for Muslim girls that cover their bodies but still give them freedom to swim 🙂

  2. Thanks. Here’s how I’m currently describing her suit.

    Jasmine grinned from the other side of the pool. She wore the one-piece swimsuit he’d grown used to seeing her in over the years. It had always reminded Dale of a wetsuit, with its long sleeves and sporty white stripes up the legs.

    The bigger issue is that there is no adult supervision. They actually sneak into the pool that is on the secret agency’s jet. I know this is not what a parent would want, their kids sneaking in somewhere that is off-limits. BUT these are kids. Muslim or Christian or Jewish or Hindu, kids are going to test boundaries. I really don’t want to portray ANY of the kids as being perfect, and always doing what they are supposed to, because that is not realistic. Kids push boundaries. And defy their parents. Jasmine is a good girl, but she has a bold side, encouraged by her father. So, in this scene, she could struggle between wanting to be a good Muslim, but also really just wanting to swim with her good friends. Or maybe she needs to struggle with if being a “good Muslim” is the right path for her, if it means losing contact with her friends, since they are boys.

    I realize this is a very complicated issue. I also realize the Muslim community is very diverse. I know that many American Muslims do not necessarily follow all of the expectations and rules of their faith, the same as many Christians or Jews don’t in modern life. Yet they still believe in God and their faith, and try to follow the spirit of the rules, if not exactly the letter of them.

    Jasmine could worry about what her mother would say if she gets caught. Or wrestle with if she should be there at all…

    I realize their might be some disagreement on this issue, but characters need to be flawed to feel real, and for kids to relate to them. Looking forward to your thoughts on this. I know this is a thornier subject…
    Thanks again! Jami

  3. I wonder if something like this would work? (This scenes shows them getting caught by the director of the agency, as they hide in a pump room). Having to confess to her mother shows that there are consequences to her actions…

    Mr. E turned in a slow circle and stated, “Jasmine, I’m docking you seventy points for incomplete concealment. Your hair is showing from behind one of the towels. How many times have I told you to tie it back when on a mission.”

    Dale was shocked when a row of towels moved, and Jasmine climbed off the top shelf. “Yes, sir,” she said, eyes to the ground.

    “Your mother would be very disappointed in you. Swimming here unsupervised with these boys.”

    Jasmine bit her lip. “You’re not going to tell her are you?”

    “No. You are.”

    Thoughts????

  4. As long as you show you’re aware that swimming with the opposite gender is not preferable amongst Muslims, you’re okay. I like the last one where she gets caught and questioned about it. But yeah, do what you feel is realistic, not what’s perfect. Islam is one thing and the realities Muslims face is another.

     

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