Frequently Asked Questions
What inspired you to do all that you do? (i.e. sports, writing, and activism)?
My writing just started from personal experiences and Twitter commentary. There aren’t a lot of people discussing these topics but an absolute need for this perspective and to share academic research on this topic. I connected with an incredible woman, Sertac Sehlikoglu (who did her PhD at Cambridge University). She is curator of the Muslim Women in Sports blog. I started writing for them and also started writing for various blog and websites who were interested in the stories of Muslim women and Women of Colour athletes. Biggest blessing was being a part of Muslimah Media Watch team. That gave me tremendous confidence. Being a part of such an important collaboration of brilliant women was huge.
Then started to connect with women’s sports groups and agencies working with women all over the world. I get a lot of support from women in Toronto as well. I work with Outburst! and that has been so important in shaping my work.
What are the biggest barriers to Muslim women’s participation in sports?
For muslim women and women from ethnic communities in this country, from my research, the biggest barriers are access to equipment, financial support, a sports culture they’re not familiar with […] general toxic culture of masculinity in sports. [Muslim women] have to battle gendered islamophobia […] in sports. It can be a lot to handle. As far as Muslim girls go, [barriers] can be anything from body image, doubt. Young Muslim women suffer the same trials and tribulations as any other young woman, like lack of support from society to mixed messages to identifying what an athlete looks like.
How do you carve out success in a crowded, homogeneous field?
You have to fight really hard to get your foot in the door and then prove how great you are. People ask me what I do for a living, and I tell them: “I write pitches and get rejected.” But I’ve been really lucky that I’ve had some really cool mentors and that people have given me a chance, and said, “Let’s see what you can do.” What ends up happening in sports writing is you create ally-ships with other women. I try to surround myself with people that identity as female or non-binary or femme-presenting. I feel safer in those spaces.
What are some of the most memorable experiences you’ve had in this line of work?
On one trip to Washington D.C., I was invited by Brian Dooley from Human Rights First to sit on a panel with Olympic diver Greg Louganis, veteran sportswriter Christine Brennan, and sports and disability activist Eli Wolff. The next day, I met my mentor Dave Zirin and was on his radio show. I was on cloud nine the entire time.
Because most of my work is online, I don’t always get to meet my colleagues or editors. When I finally do, it’s fun. I attended a conference last year at Duke University on the Futures of Women’s Soccer that was organized by one of my favorite Twitter people, Laurent Dubois, and Josh Nadel. All the panelists were women. I met a few former U.S. women’s national team players as well. It was surreal.
It was so fun to meet people in person. I am attending a conference in Texas this month, insha’Allah, and I get to meet a few more people. A few of whom I consider very strong allies and friends — women I have incredible respect for. I will probably fangirl the entire time. Maybe we will cry. I feel like I know them well and we have shared similar experiences. We chat pretty often and Skype when we need to. But to get to sit across from someone at a table is just wonderful, Alhumdullilah.
Talk about your athletic background. Soccer is clearly your main sport, but did you play others growing up?
I started playing soccer when I was five years old. I fell in love with it. I played a lot of different sports as a child. My parents encouraged me to try different things. I played ice hockey, volleyball, touch football, paddled, played badminton and squash and swam a lot. When I was in University I rowed crew after I stopped playing varsity soccer (I started wearing hijab and it wasn’t permitted on the pitch at the time). I never played basketball. I disliked it. But I married a basketball player, Alhumdullilah. Funny how that happens.
Why is your name footybedsheets?
What is your favorite animal?
I’m a cat lover.
What is your favorite movie?
My all time favorite movie is Bend it Like Beckham. I’ve probably watched it over 800 times.
What is your favorite book?
I should reply Al-Qu’ran but I can’t compare the Word of God with anything on a mainstream book list, can I? It’s unfair to the mortal authors.
I adore lot of books but one particular publication of Classic Islamic knowledge grounds me and I turn to it for constant centering and relearning.I won’t spoil it but the title is pretty clear: ‘Patience and Gratitude’ by Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah.
At the moment, I am devouring Lila Abu Lughod’s “Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving?” Should be mandatory reading in every class, everywhere in the world. No bias.