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Calgary’s Muslim women athletes sporting a respect for games and culture

Even with cultural and religious barriers around mixed-gender sports and clothing considerations, women at a Calgary mosque are sweating it out on the courts.

Baitun Nur mosque in Calgary has been consistently encouraging women in the Muslim community to participate in sports. 

“A saying from our Holy Prophet Muhammad is that ‘A physically strong person is better than a physically weak person,'” said Amtul Qayyum Anjum, general secretary in charge of Lajna (women’s auxiliary organization) at Jama’at e Ahmadiyya in Calgary.

So, we encourage our ladies to participate in sports and exercise.”

The mosque has made sure to not let any of this act as a hindrance for women who want to play sports. They create an environment that allows women to be comfortable playing and still respect their cultural identity.

“When we play inside our gym, it’s amongst the women only. So, they do not have to wear a scarf, although, we still dress in modest clothing and members do not find any difficulty with playing to their full capacity in this clothing,” said Qayyum.

“Rather, they feel even more comfortable,” she said. 

Many sports groups don’t take religion into consideration

For Daniyya Haleem, the sports secretary and the captain of the women’s volleyball team at Baitun Nur mosque, the feeling is mutual.

Haleem said that most public teams fail to consider Muslim women’s ethnic concerns. 

“That is a big reason as to why we have it in the mosque. We are all women, we all wear the same things, we are all comfortable and no men are coming in at that time,” she said.

With a motive to teach the female members of the community to work hard, live in sisterhood, and to increase their physical strength, Qayyum believes that sports is the way to go.

“Islam teaches us to do good deeds with an active mind. One way to achieve this is through having an active and healthy body,” said Qayyum.

COVID-19 put a hold on the sports

The players usually meet four days a week to practice volleyball. Due to COVID-19, the game has been put on hold for now.  

All eight teams from Lajna Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at’s Calgary Region Volleyball play against each other once a year in a tournament. 

“Within our community, participating is seen as a good thing rather than a bad thing or stigma,” said Haleem.

Haleem has been a part of the Baitun Nur volleyball team for six years now. 

“People really support it and they look up to people who are participating. Everyone is always encouraging people to join,” she said. 

She feels thankful for having such a supportive space within the community.

The mosque also has a women’s badminton team. Every year, they hold a Sports Day events where participants win prizes. 

“By having these initiatives, we encourage our members to participate and try their best in sports. This is a fun opportunity for our members and it helps diminish the negative stigma around Muslims and sports,” said Qayyum.

According to Haleem, this is also a good way to bring people towards the mosque and feel comfortable around the people you know. 

“The idea that Muslim women cannot play sports in modesty is absolutely incorrect. Our team members would agree that it does not limit them in any capacity.”