The natural world doesn’t judge us on faith, culture or preferences. There’s so much more to unite, than divide – and we’re committed to challenging norms and broadening opportunities
In autumn 2021 we worked with @haroonmota and @amira_thewanderlust. On an icy day, up in northern England’s Peak District, they shared their perspectives on nature, faith and encouraging people from the Muslim community out into the great outdoors.
Haroon: I live in the city, busy at work. Getting outside is my escape. For our communities, there are many barriers. And one of these barriers is that it's simply not in our traditions to visit national parks and green spaces. Winter is one of my favourite seasons. I love the fresh air, ice and snow. I'm a very hot person. I find it difficult training through the summer. So whether I’m marathon training or just out wandering, winter is a chance for me to keep cool!
Amira: Getting outdoors is a huge part of my life. It’s where I spend the majority of my time. It's really good for my mental and physical health. But for me personally, it's a place where I can connect to God. It's a spiritual journey. My mum would take us hiking and we’d do adventures. But, typically, within a South Asian community, getting outdoors wasn’t normalized, especially with Muslim women who wear the veil and hijab. I really felt that I needed to do something to change this."
H: Being a Muslim, my faith is paramount. Connecting with nature gives me the chance to ponder upon the purpose of life and connect with God. Active Inclusion Network is a community interest company I founded during lockdown. We want to champion more diversity outdoors through @muslim.hikers firstname.lastname@example.org.
A: I created an online community for people who are Muslim or from an ethnic background to get outdoors. It’s called Wanderlust Women. The aim is to give women the confidence to get outdoors no matter what you look like or what background you come from.
H: We want to do more. Not just tackle health inequalities, but to bring greater inclusivity and build awareness. There was a lot of loneliness isolation during lockdown and people jumped at the opportunity to be part of a community where they felt safe and secure in a community that resonated with them or community that they felt they belong to. We've started to organize events in North Wales, Snowdonia, the Peak District and far beyond.
A: If you don’t look like a typical hiker, you face challenges - racism and Islamophobia. When we're out, exploring, we're having a good time. We do get a lot of looks. We have had racial comments and hate speech on our social media. But the positivity always, always wins. We’ve had so much great support.
H: I’m a marathon runner - the training gives me a lot of discipline. Running for several hours a day throughout the week can become very lonely. It's often just me and the road or the trail. And for that reason, it gives me the chance to really build my mindset, to be extremely positive, to overcome the mental barriers, the demons that tell you to slow down or to stop. This mindset helps me continue in the face of negativity when we’ve encountered that too. You have to overcome the bumps in the road and stay true to your vision, to your purpose.
A: It’s crazy, our small online community has turned into a huge, real-life community because we've got women all over the country who come together now and partake in so many different activities. We put out events and they get sold straight away and we get so many messages every day from women asking how to join in, what can they do, how do you do it, what you wear?
H: The work we're doing through Muslim hikers and through our communities to get people outside is encouraging people to visit national parks like the Peak District here, and we hope that people will continue to push themselves and do more.
A: To help women from my community, to see the smiles on their faces, is just really, really beautiful. I just thought this was a side thing during Covid while I was not working. But for me now to see this, it's helped me to realize what is meant for my future. I’m training to become a mountain leader, I want to get qualifications in different specialisms too.
H: Travel to new places and just have a go! Make less excuses. Be willing to explore. Be willing to adventure. The work we're doing through Muslim hikers and through our communities to get people outside is encouraging people to visit national parks like the Peak District here, and we hope that people will continue to push themselves and do more.
A: We’ve been featured in magazines and documentaries – and I really want to get women like was represented in the outdoor industry as a whole. I want us to be as included as everyone else is. We have a lot of plans and this is just the beginning of the Wanderlust Women. We hope that it gets to a point where we can really access the outdoors without negativity. We’re just fuelled on the positivity we’ve had! @amira_thewanderlust.
To find out more make sure to follow Haroon and Amira on social @haroonmota and @amira_thewanderlust.