181 not a reference

Muslim Girls Fence: Join the Journey!

By Jinan Golley

We are excited to have the opportunity over the next few years to take Muslim Girls Fence to more schools in London and Birmingham, as well as Rotherham, Sheffield and other UK cities; working with and connecting girls from across the country.

We are looking for clubs to support the project and committed women fencing coaches from areas in or around those cities to deliver fencing sessions. Coaches should be passionate about the project, understand the need for such an initiative and enjoy working with young people and supporting their wellbeing and enjoyment, as well as their sporting development.

If you haven't fenced before, but you're excited by the project and think that you'd be a great fit, get in touch to discuss the possibility of attending an introductory fencing course that will accredit you to lead sessions.

* * * 

When Olympic bronze medalist, Ibtihaj Muhammad, was asked after the 2016 Olympics what fencing for Team USA means to her, she said "it's challenging those misconceptions that people have about who the Muslim woman is. That someone is forcing me to wear this hijab. That I'm oppressed. That I don't have a voice."

At Maslaha we are often asked: why Muslim Girls Fence? Participants in the project frequently reflect that Muslim girls and women are represented in the media and stereotyped by wider society in one dimensional terms; as "housewives", "submissive" and "weak". Muslim girls face double discrimination on the basis of both gender and religion. By taking up fencing, a sport that is often perceived as predominantly white, male and elite, Muslim Girls Fence participants are breaking stereotypes and claiming a space for themselves. As one young woman said about fencing: "it's like what you do in life -- you step forward to get what you want".

Muslim Girls Fence is a collaboration between Maslaha and British Fencing, consisting of ten weeks of consecutive Maslaha and fencing sessions with secondary school students. During the Maslaha sessions, we explore issues of identity, gender and Islamophobia, and how to creatively challenge stereotypes.

To date, we have taken Muslim Girls Fence to two schools in East London, the Frederick Bremer School and Beal High School, and to the Stockland Green School in Birmingham. With the amazing group of girls from the Frederick Bremer School and a number of artists, Muslim Girls Fence had its first exhibition at the Southbank Centre as part of the Women of the World festival in March 2016, ‘Don’t Fence Me In’, with the girls also showing off their fencing techniques to a large audience. They are now working on starting up a fencing club at their school to lead younger students. We worked with the girls at Beal High School to produce a zine – a radical small press magazine – inspired by their thoughts on identity and fencing. In Birmingham, we will be beginning a series of podcasts including participants’ poetry, thoughts, interviews with role models (we’re holding out for Ibtihaj Muhammad!) and more.

If you would like to get involved with the Muslims Girls Fence journey, or just want to hear more, e-mail us at: info@maslaha.org