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MASLAHA: MUSLIM GIRLS FENCE

14th January 2016

An initiative to challenge misconceptions of Muslim girls through fencing

In collaboration with British Fencing and Sport England, Maslaha is launching ‘Muslim Girls Fence’, an exciting new initiative encouraging Muslim girls to get more involved in fencing.

Fencing is a sport associated with confidence building and empowerment.  This campaign will tap into this potential for positive change, challenging misperceptions of and raising aspirations among young Muslim women, a group facing double discrimination on the basis of both faith and gender.  The initiative will also break down conceptions of fencing as a white-dominated, elite sport that is not accessible to young people of all backgrounds.

The project will begin through eight pilot workshops in Frederick Bremer school in Walthamstow from December 2015 to February 2016, before being scaled up into a national engagement programme for young Muslim women that can be delivered across the UK.

The journey of our participants will be documented along the way by a photographer and filmmaker, and the resulting exhibition and film will be launched on International Women’s Day on March 8th 2016.  This initiative is part of I Can Be She, a group of Maslaha projects seeking to challenge misperceptions of Muslim women and change how society perceives them.

Muslim women have been acknowledged to face a number of barriers when it comes to participating in sport including dress code, public visibility, non-segregated spaces as well as poor teacher understanding and inadequate teacher training.  Given this backdrop, fencing provides an exciting opportunity for the participation of young Muslim women; US international fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, has described fencing as ‘uniquely accommodating’ for Muslim women, describing how wearing the same kit as everyone else meant for the first time she ‘truly felt like part of the team.’

The project is also important for British Fencing’s drive to make fencing more accessible to more diverse groups in the UK today and challenge misperceptions young people may have about the sport.  As a partnership, we are confident that this funding from Sport England and British Fencing will provide a valuable kick-start for getting Muslim girls in the UK active through fencing, and in turn increase their confidence and sense of solidarity with peers, empowering them to demand change and challenge negative stereotypes of Muslim women.

Speaking about the project, Raheel Mohammed, Maslaha Director, said; “We are excited about working with British Fencing to get this unusual project off the ground. We are always keen to push the boundaries and form unusual collaborations when it comes to our work and this project is a great opportunity to do just that. The stereotypes facing young Muslims and women in particular remain a constant feature of the media in all its forms. This project is an opportunity to take control of the narrative and tell a story that focuses on aspiration, creativity, and the right to define yourself. We look forward to this being a long-term relationship with British Fencing and the young women we work with.” Raheel Mohammed, Director, Maslaha.

CEO of British Fencing, Georgina Usher, added; "British Fencing are delighted to be working in partnership with Maslaha to support the delivery of this exciting project. Through this unique fencing experience we aim to inspire and encourage more Muslim women of all ages to engage in sport and lead physically active lives. British Fencing is also committed to exploring the wider social benefits of our sport and the positive impact that it can have on building confidence and self esteem. Working collaboratively with Maslaha, sharing our knowledge and experience, our shared goal is to create a model that can be replicated across the country, empowering many Muslim women and helping them to lead more physically active lives."

To find out more visit www.muslimgirlsfence.org.

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