Islamophobic attacks have increased by 326% in the UK. Muslim women are reported to be the most vulnerable (and most visible, especially for those who wear the hijab). “Muslim Girls Fence” wants to empower Muslim girls and challenge the perception of the sport which is traditionally seen as quite elite and male.
Project manager Latifa Akay shares, “In simple terms, we are aiming to challenge misperceptions and raise aspirations among young Muslim women, in the light of the complex discrimination experienced by this group on the basis of both faith and gender.”
“When I fence, I take a step forward to lunge at my opponent,” says 13-year-old Seher Chohan. “I also think that it is what you do in life. You step forward to get what you want.” Seher says her and her friends are inspired by American sabre fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad who became the first Muslim woman to qualify for the United States Olympic team after overcoming many hurdles.
“If Muslim girls are [fencing], it shows that we can do anything because it’s at the top of the list of things you wouldn’t think a Muslim girl could do,” says the teen. “Raising awareness about the issue and how many people have supported it really boosts your hope that the stereotypes will change. It’s not going to be a picture-perfect world, but we can always aim to make it a better place and less oppressive and less judgmental.”