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Muslim Women Take the YMCA Plunge

Local Matters


Published March 18, 2009 at 10:03 a.m.

The Islamic Society of Vermont rented the YMCA lap pool for two hours last Saturday night so local Muslim women could have a private place to dip — or take a first-ever swimming lesson.

It was no routine rental: Since the locker room couldn’t be properly secured, the women entered through the back entrance and changed clothes in the pool area. Only female lifeguards and instructors were permitted to watch over the aquatic action.

Caroline Comley, a senior at the University of Vermont who teaches swimming at the Y, said about 20 women took the plunge. Only two bikini-clad teens actually knew how to swim; the others, all non-swimmers, varied from “comfortable in the water” to “really nervous.” She said some of the adult women kept their heads covered, and most wore long pants in the pool.

But “they weren’t shy,” Comley insists, noting they listened to music supplied by the Y. “They were all really friendly and outgoing.” One woman from Saudi Arabia asked Comley if the Y would ever consider same-sex swimming sessions. In the Middle East, men and women have separate pools.

Comley said, “I told her, unfortunately, we don’t have that.” Yet. Even the Young Men’s Christian Association has come a long way, baby.