Muslim Girls Fence

Muslim Girls Fence: an initiative seeking to challenge misconceptions of Muslim girls through fencing

'Muslim Girls Fence' aims to tap into the confidence-building and empowerment associated with fencing to challenge misperceptions of and raise 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Rehmat Rayatt

 

What will the project involve?

  • An exhibition will be launched on International Women's Day, March 8 and a short conceptual film will be previewed in March and released in September
  • Engagement days at locations across London and Birmingham for schools and community groups to take part in a taster session, view the exhibition and link up with local clubs 
  • The insight gained from everyone involved in the project will be applied to collaboratively develop a national engagement programme for young Muslim women that can be scaled up across the country

Why Muslim girls?

This initiative expands Maslaha’s I Can Be She (ICBS) project which was launched in East London in 2011, seeking to raise aspirations among Muslim girls and change the way they are perceived in society.

Raising aspirations among Muslim girls is particularly important in the current climate in the UK where Muslim women face strong negative stereotypes and inequalities. Islamophobia has a strong gendered dimension with 58% of reported cases of discrimination in the UK concerning women.[1] The government’s current counter-radicalisation strategies are increasingly under attack for disproportionately targeting Muslim students and further stigmatising young Muslims and alienating them from their peers.[2]

 As well as disenfranchisement, young Muslims in the UK also face disproportionate social inequalities in areas such as education, employment and healthcare; following education, Muslim women are almost four times as likely to be unemployed as Christian women.[3]  We believe that further alienating young people who already face multiple disadvantage, is dangerous and that practical alternatives such as this initiative are urgently needed.

Why Fencing?

Young Muslim women are broadly conceived as being less active than their non-Muslim peers, an issue that has been largely attributed to the issue of dress code, and non-segregated activities as well as poor teacher understanding.[4] 

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 having participated in sports for many years, the fact that with fencing she could wear the same kit as everyone else meant that 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. 

[1] 'The tangled web of discrimination faced by Muslim women' (2015) https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/voices/tangled-web-discrimination-faced-muslim-women

[2] 'Schools face new legal duties to tackle extremism' (2015) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-33328377

[3] Office for National Statistics (2004)

[4] Routledge Handbook of Sport, Gender and Sexuality (2014)

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