Culture

Breaking stereotypes – meet Sumaiyah, the hijab-wearing skateboard instructor

24-year-old Sumaiyah Bibi is a hijabi skateboarder who set up a skateboarding club at the local school she works at. With an armful of boards and safety gear, she was able to break stereotypes and encourage young Muslim children to take part in more healthy outdoor activities. I interviewed Sumaiyah to find out more about the the club…

Salaam alaikum Sumaiyah, peace be with you. Your skateboarding program sounds fun for the children who participate. Please tell more about this program and what the students do?

skateboarding muslim kids 2Wasalaam sister, I have recently launched FPA Skateboarding as an after school program at the primary school where I work. The children learn skateboarding safety at first, then they begin to free-skate. This allows them to learn to be independent, set their own goals, get creative, take ownership, learn through trial and error and socialise with other children regardless of background or ability. Schools don’t usually offer such clubs to children, but at Feversham Primary Academy in Bradford we do and it’s free for our pupils!

You don’t really see many Muslims skateboarding do you?

You’re right, you don’t! But I have Muslim pupils attending the club, most of whom have never skateboarded before. It’s something completely new for many of them, so some of them are very keen to learn while others are quite afraid at first.

Skateboarding is not popular within our local Asian Muslim community. I also grew up in Bradford, and I see that skateboarding is still very unpopular here. There are many negative stereotypes surrounding skateboarding, and mostly it’s considered a waste of time. That’s why FPA Skateboarding strives to show people how positive and fun skateboarding can be.

I believe skateboarding is a great tool to empower children, especially girls. During the skateboarding club, I have witnessed a positive change in children’s behaviour. I’ve noticed children becoming confident, and in particular girls having grown in confidence. They show great pleasure in helping each other, expressing themselves, and of course having a lot of fun.

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What would you say to Muslim parents who might not be so keen on their children having ‘unconventional’ hobbies like skateboarding?

I believe it is absolutely vital to allow children to do this; there are many benefits for allowing children to discover new sports and hobbies. It gives children the opportunity to enjoy and express their talents.

Children get bored very quickly, so they need new hobbies and sports they can participate in. When children and young adults are bored they often get involved in things they should not be, like getting with the wrong crowd or joining social media sites while they are too young. This can lead to children being at risk of getting involved with dangerous people or habits and getting bullied. According to BBC, kids join social media sites because they’re bored or because of peer pressure. That’s why it’s essential to allow children to discover new sports and hobbies such as skateboarding, roller skating, ice skating, biking, swimming, horse-riding etc. These sports are extremely fun and a great opportunity to be outdoors. They also allow children to develop physically, mentally, and socially.

Unfortunately, we don’t see many Muslims involved in such sports. I think it would be brilliant to see more Muslims getting involved, especially Muslim girls. Often certain activities such as skateboarding, BMX bike riding, roller skating, etc are just something that is culturally unacceptable or something you don’t see within the Muslim community. This does not necessarily make it un-Islamic. A great example of this is when Hazrat Aisha (RA), the wife of Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) would compete in footraces with the Prophet. Another hadith recounts our beloved Prophet saying ”Teach your children swimming, archery, and horse riding.”

It is culture that plays a big part in restricting people from participating in different sports, not religion. Islam encourages a healthy lifestyle. Physical activity plays a huge role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, so following the etiquettes of sports in Islam is encouraged.

What’s so awesome about skateboarding in your opinion? Do you enjoy it yourself?

Where do I start? I can go on forever about why skateboarding is awesome. Skateboarding is extremely cool; there’s so much you can do with it. Whether it’s incredible tricks on a standard skateboard, hitting the skate park ramps, or simply cruising on a Penny Board, it’s always exhilarating. The different feelings I get from skateboarding are special. I get a sense of freedom – I feel creative and at peace. Skateboarding is awesome because there are no short cuts, no cheats possible. You have to push yourself in order to improve and challenge yourself to get better. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what you dress like, which language you speak, or whether you are a beginner or a pro, as long as you are having fun, skateboarding is for you.

I would like to thank Feversham Primary Academy and The Muslim Vibe for supporting this program. We are hoping to expand FPA Skateboarding and continue challenging stereotypes and empowering young children for the next generation.

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Jennah Adam is an aspiring artist and novelist. She lives a quiet life with her family in the American suburbs accompanied by her fantasies, which are many and vivid.

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