8 female Muslim athletes who are breaking the mold

Published February 7th, 2016 - 13:38 GMT

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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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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.
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Image 1 of 8:  1 / 8Meet 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.

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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.
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Image 2 of 8:  2 / 8Meet 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.

Enlarge
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
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Image 3 of 8:  3 / 8Meet 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

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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.”
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Image 4 of 8:  4 / 8This 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.”

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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.
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Image 5 of 8:  5 / 8Extreme 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.

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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.
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Image 6 of 8:  6 / 8In 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.

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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.
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Image 7 of 8:  7 / 8Shinoona 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.

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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.
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Image 8 of 8:  8 / 8Raha 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.

Enlarge

1

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.

Image 1 of 8Meet 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.

2

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.

Image 2 of 8Meet 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.

3

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

Image 3 of 8Meet 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

4

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.”

Image 4 of 8This 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.”

5

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.

Image 5 of 8Extreme 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.

6

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.

Image 6 of 8In 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.

7

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.

Image 7 of 8Shinoona 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.

8

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.

Image 8 of 8Raha 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.

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