I was recently asked…”How do you “rise above’ and continue to push your limits when some people try to hold you back?” To even respond on the ‘how’ in present speaking I have to take you back to my past which has created the woman I am today. To start off, I am the only child, and grew up in a home with one of my parents who were addicted to drugs, having to deal with being the only child and struggling with a partial life in the drug world, something I never asked for, those experiences built a lot of resilience and self-reliance in me from a young age. For as long as I can remember I’ve always had to look out, defend, protect, and push through life’s challenges. When I converted to Islam and began to cover (with a hijab and dressing modestly) I never saw my attire as a form of oppression or something that would prevent me from doing anything I wanted to do whether it was professional, educational, or athletic. I have always found a way to make whatever I am pursuing work for me and not the other way around.
Over the years a lot of assumptions and curiosity about the Muslim woman and her rights have been a topic of discussion, to the point that some Muslim women have gone into professional and athletic fields to show that being covered isn’t oppressive, and there isn’t a man hiding in the bushes ready to punish them for doing anything that we wanted to do. There are currently – and I will name just a few – Muslim women who have broken several glass ceilings who I admire for their fierce approach. The first is Ibithaj Muhammad who is best known for being the first Muslim American woman to wear a hijab while competing for the United States in the Olympics in individual sabre at the 2016 Summer Olympics. She earned the bronze medal as part of Team USA in the Team Sabre, becoming the first female Muslim-American athlete to earn a medal at the Olympics. Then you have Bilqis Abdul-Qaadirm who is notable for playing basketball while being completely covered showing no skin, except for her hands, and while wearing a hijab. And finally I will mention Halima Aden, who is currently known for becoming the first super model to wear hijab and be completely covered! Talk about defying all the beauty standards! When I see my fellow sisters climb the ladder despite the barriers people try to put before them, I am inspired to do whatever my mind and body are capable of doing.
When I am the target of hate speech against my religion and/or the way I cover for example “This type of covering has no place in a civilized country,” my way of push through, to be honest, is ignoring the push back and continuing to do what I feel is best for me. There will always be people trying to tear you down. If it wasn’t for me being Muslim it would be something else.
I have to admit for many years I put my goals to the side for the sake of my family and it became a boiling point as to where I wanted more for myself and that journey began on my birthday December 12, 2011. From that day forward, I have never looked back. From losing over 100lbs to running my very first half marathon, I let the doubters, haters, naysayers, narrow-minded people and bigots stop me. So, in essence my only answer to how I ‘rise above’ the push back, is to ignore the noise and continue doing what I do. I have thick skin to negativity because I know most of the time it’s coming from a place of ignorance. We live on a planet with all types of races, ethnic groups and religions. Diversity in mankind is everywhere whether one likes it or not, so there isn’t any excuse to spew ignorance or hate. Neither will I ever entertain or give attention to other than living up to my full potential.
That being said, my journey in pursuit of achieving my own greatness has lead me to run a half marathon in 10 different states since 2013; way back then I decided how cool it would be to run a half marathon in all 50 states and hopefully all 7 continents within my lifetime. Currently I am training for my first triathlon! It will be a sprint distance. Let it be known: prior to taking on the challenge to do a triathlon, I didn’t know how to ride a bike nor did I know how to swim. But over the last four months I have managed to overcome my fear of drowning, learned how to swim and I learned how to ride a bike too! I have to be honest… when I was peer pressured (LOL!) by my fellow Skirts Sports sister Mary Catherine – who’s a dear friend – I wasn’t sure if I would even be able to complete the first night of the swim lesson let alone the entire 12-week triathlon training.
As of now, I’m still in training mode. That includes building my endurance by swimming up to 1,000 yards or more before the triathlon in October, starting my half marathon training to run off my 11th state which is in November -Las Vegas, Nevada here I come! Also, increasing my mileage on the bike and continuing weight lifting in the gym because strong women ROCK!
All my life I’ve had to rise above obstacles, the hard knocks, hardships, disparity, judgement, hate, bigotry, and islamophobia, but quitting is never an option. As a Black unapologetic athletic Muslim woman that’s over 40 years old who fought for herself…whatever is thrown my way I turn those lemons into lemonade, lemon pie and lemon sorbet.