AT 27, Khadijah Safari converted to Islam and quit her job to get a black belt in Muay Thai kickboxing and self defense. Nearly ten years later, Mrs Safari still resides in a London suburb but now is happily together with her partner in marriage and work — having married her kickboxer instructor, a former world champion cage fighter. The couple eventually opened a kickboxing gym where they teach segregated classes.
Mrs Safari specializes in self-defense and teaches both Muslim and non-Muslim women. “I’ve always thought it was important that I knew how to defend myself,” says the kickboxer pro. “What I do is about control, it’s about discipline, self respect and looking after your body.”
And she likes fighting the misconceptions and stereotypes. “When people ask what I do, I say that I teach and they always think I teach primary school children,” comments the mother of four. “They don’t necessarily know that I’ve got boxing gloves in my bag, they just see the hijab and think I must be a school teacher.”
On teaching segregated classes, she makes the point: “I’ve found non-Muslim women are just as keen to train with other women only. In our classes were all equal, our hijabs are off so there’s no Muslim or non-Muslim.”