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Roaring Beyond Boundaries: Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir’s Inspiring Tale of Basketball, Faith and Inclusion

Lion on the Inside is a heartfelt narrative that chronicles Bilqis’ remarkable story as a young girl deeply passionate about basketball and her faith.

By Matthew Celestial
Roaring Beyond Boundaries: Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir’s Inspiring Tale of Basketball, Faith and Inclusion

Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, author and advocate for Muslim girls in sport

In an increasingly diverse world, it has become crucial for young children to understand and appreciate different races, religions, and backgrounds. Recognizing the significance of this, children’s book author Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir sat down with us to chat about her brand new children’s book, Lion on the Inside: How One Girl Changed Basketball.

Lion on the Inside is a heartfelt narrative that chronicles Bilqis’ remarkable story as a young girl deeply passionate about basketball and her faith. From her early years to her journey through the sport, the book beautifully intertwines the importance of family, faith and her love for the game.

How it all began

We had the opportunity to meet with Bilqis and gain insights into her inspirational journey and the messaging and purpose behind her upcoming book. When asked about her inspiration for writing the book in the first place, Bilqis humbly shared her initial hesitation as a writer.

“It was never a good time when I would just sit down and say, 'Okay, let me write it,' but co-author, Judith Henderson, found my cellphone number, called me and said, ‘I want to write a story about a woman basketball player, and I want it to be you’.

The book came from there,” says Bilqis. “I had no idea that writing a children’s book was so intricate and so tedious, but it’s so amazing to see the end result.”

A book that sparks change

At the heart of Lion on the Inside lies the importance of young children understanding different races and religions. As a mother of two, Bilqis has witnessed firsthand children's inquisitive nature.

“I see the importance of being real, honest, and raw with our children; in a way they can understand.” Bilqis adds, “If we shelter them from different beliefs and people, what are we teaching them, really? You know, I’m a Black, Muslim woman. You don't see me on the basketball court or on any playing fields often, so I just pray that this book allows people to love, to accept and to want to learn more from different people.”

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Lion on the Inside aims to inspire young readers to become better citizens. Bilqis emphasizes the significance of breaking stereotypes and showcasing the diversity within her faith of Islam. Sharing a relatable story through the universal language of sports, Bilqis hopes to dispel misconceptions about Muslim women.

She adds, “I hope it sparks an urge for kids to stand up for their friends or to speak on anything that doesn't make them feel comfortable, to have that togetherness in their communities, schools and classrooms."

Book cover of Lion on the Inside Lion on the Inside: How One Girl Changed Basketball, written by Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir with Judith Henderson, illustrated by Katherine Ahmed

Fostering cultural awareness

“These are the things that we have to do as parents,” says Bilqis. “Take the time out and think about how we answer these questions, because you have to be intentional, but also really, really take the time to sit with our kids and learn with them. Through them and through my sons, I learned so much. Sit down, explore with them, and make sure that we're engaging in the growth of their minds and their perceptions of this world.” Bilqis also highlights how parents can use books to teach their kids about race and religion.

In her own parenting journey, Bilqis shares her strategy of exposing her children to diverse environments and experiences. By taking them to cultural classes and community events, she enables her children to see the beauty of different backgrounds, languages and traditions. Bilqis believes that immersing oneself and their children in unfamiliar and uncomfortable spaces is essential for fostering inclusivity and learning about others.

Diversity at the heart of children’s literature

Lion on the Inside is part of children’s publisher Kids Can Press’ CitizenKid collection of books that inform children about the world, including issues around inclusion and diversity. Bilqis noted, “This book will allow people to change their minds, change their hearts and break stereotypes that have been around for so long about women who look like me — and other women who don't look like me, but share the same story or share the same trials and tribulations in life.”

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Ultimately, Lion on the Inside carries a profound message for young readers. Through her journey in basketball and faith, Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir has crafted a tale that will undoubtedly leave a lasting impact on young readers. Lion on the Inside serves as a catalyst for fostering inclusivity, empathy and a desire to learn from and about others. As parents, let us seize the opportunity to introduce our children to this transformative book, enabling them to become better citizens and advocates for a more inclusive world.

Lion on the Inside: How One Girl Changed Basketball is available for pre-order and will be in stores this September.

This article was originally published on May 30, 2023

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