8 female Muslim athletes who are breaking the mold

Published February 7th, 2016 - 01:38 GMT

In Saudi Arabia, women need male approval before they can leave the house unchaperoned, yet Saudi women are still competing in the Olympics and climbing Mount Everest. In Afghanistan, female athletes are harassed, threatened and abused for performing in front of men who aren’t their husbands, yet women from Afghanistan are still risking their lives to set sprinting records. Here are eight female Muslim athletes shattering stereotypes in the Islamic world.

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tahmina kohistani afghanistan

Meet Afghan runner Tahmina Kohistani, 26. She was the only woman from Afghanistan at the 2012 London Olympics. The university student often gets heckled while training in Kabul, but doesn't care: “I’m here to begin a new era for the women of Afghanistan," she says.

zahra lari uae

Meet Zahra Lari, a figure skater from the United Arab Emirates. She became the 1st skater from the Gulf to compete in an international competition in 2012 when she performed at Italy’s European Cup. Lari, who was only 17 at the time, also made history as the first figure skater to compete at that level while wearing a hijab.

kulsoon abdullah weightlifting

Meet Kulsoon Abdullah, 39, a Pakistani-American weightlifter. She was the first person ever to compete in the sport internationally while wearing a hijab. Abdullah, who also has a doctorate in computer engineering, has represented Pakistan at weightlifting competitions all over the world, blogging about her experiences at LiftingCovered.com

ibtihaj muhammad olympics

This year in Brazil, fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad will become the first American to compete in the Olympics while wearing a hijab. The 30-yr-old is also the first Muslim woman to join the US Olympic fencing team. Obama gave her a personal shoutout in February when he visited a Maryland mosque. “Bring home the gold,” he said. “[But] no pressure.”

mona seraji iran

Extreme snowboarder Mona Seraji, 33, is known unofficially as “Iran’s snowboard ambassador” for her efforts to combat stereotypes about Muslim women in sports. But Seraji says female stereotyping is a problem even outside the Middle East. “Women’s bodies have always been an issue, in every society,” she told Huck Magazine in July.

Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkani judo

In 2012, judo fighter Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkani became the first Saudi woman ever to compete in the Olympics, but the match wasn’t broadcast in Suadi Arabia. Saudi clerics said it was inappropriate for a woman to fight in front of men such as the judges and referees.

Shinoona Salah al-Habsi oman

Shinoona Salah al-Habsi, 22, was one of only four Omani athletes to compete in the London Olympics in 2012. Oman has never won an Olympic medal, and al-Habsi, who was born in the city of Muscat (pop. 1.3 million), aims to be the first.

raha moharrak saudi arabia

Raha Moharrak made history in 2013 when she became the first woman from Saudi Arabia to summit Mount Everest. The 29-year-old graphic designer doesn't care about being first, “so long as as it inspires someone else to be second.” Other Saudi women may find that difficult, as they need male approval simply to leave the house unchaperoned.

tahmina kohistani afghanistan
zahra lari uae
kulsoon abdullah weightlifting
ibtihaj muhammad olympics
mona seraji iran
Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkani judo
Shinoona Salah al-Habsi oman
raha moharrak saudi arabia
tahmina kohistani afghanistan
Meet Afghan runner Tahmina Kohistani, 26. She was the only woman from Afghanistan at the 2012 London Olympics. The university student often gets heckled while training in Kabul, but doesn't care: “I’m here to begin a new era for the women of Afghanistan," she says.
zahra lari uae
Meet Zahra Lari, a figure skater from the United Arab Emirates. She became the 1st skater from the Gulf to compete in an international competition in 2012 when she performed at Italy’s European Cup. Lari, who was only 17 at the time, also made history as the first figure skater to compete at that level while wearing a hijab.
kulsoon abdullah weightlifting
Meet Kulsoon Abdullah, 39, a Pakistani-American weightlifter. She was the first person ever to compete in the sport internationally while wearing a hijab. Abdullah, who also has a doctorate in computer engineering, has represented Pakistan at weightlifting competitions all over the world, blogging about her experiences at LiftingCovered.com
ibtihaj muhammad olympics
This year in Brazil, fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad will become the first American to compete in the Olympics while wearing a hijab. The 30-yr-old is also the first Muslim woman to join the US Olympic fencing team. Obama gave her a personal shoutout in February when he visited a Maryland mosque. “Bring home the gold,” he said. “[But] no pressure.”
mona seraji iran
Extreme snowboarder Mona Seraji, 33, is known unofficially as “Iran’s snowboard ambassador” for her efforts to combat stereotypes about Muslim women in sports. But Seraji says female stereotyping is a problem even outside the Middle East. “Women’s bodies have always been an issue, in every society,” she told Huck Magazine in July.
Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkani judo
In 2012, judo fighter Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkani became the first Saudi woman ever to compete in the Olympics, but the match wasn’t broadcast in Suadi Arabia. Saudi clerics said it was inappropriate for a woman to fight in front of men such as the judges and referees.
Shinoona Salah al-Habsi oman
Shinoona Salah al-Habsi, 22, was one of only four Omani athletes to compete in the London Olympics in 2012. Oman has never won an Olympic medal, and al-Habsi, who was born in the city of Muscat (pop. 1.3 million), aims to be the first.
raha moharrak saudi arabia
Raha Moharrak made history in 2013 when she became the first woman from Saudi Arabia to summit Mount Everest. The 29-year-old graphic designer doesn't care about being first, “so long as as it inspires someone else to be second.” Other Saudi women may find that difficult, as they need male approval simply to leave the house unchaperoned.