You can practice the sport you like, preserve your faith, and be a role model to others.
This is the difficult equation Abtaha Maqsood, a 22-year-old Muslim cricket player from Glasgow, proved correct when she decided to become Britain’s first hijabi to play international cricket.
Born to Pakistani parents, Abtaha started playing cricket as a little girl in the garden of her house with her father and brothers.
“My dad and my mom are both massive cricket lovers. But my dad, in particular, says all sports are important,” she said, Geo News reported.
She was only 11 when she joined her local cricket club “Poloc”. Only four months after joining the club, she was selected to represent Scotland’s under-17 squad against Ireland in a T20 tournament at the age of 12.
Currently, she plays for Birmingham Phoenix in the new short format 200-ball cricket tournament “The Hundred” in England.
“This is the first time people have really seen a woman wearing the hijab and playing cricket at the highest level, so I think it’s still important to be talked about,” she said.
“I never really had a role model who looked like me when I was growing up. I think that would have really helped me and given me a sense of belonging. So, hopefully, I can be that person for young girls now”, she added.
Besides playing cricket, Abtaha also holds a black belt in Taekwondo, which she got at the age of 11. She has participated in British and Scottish Taekwondo championships as well.
She is also a third-year student at Glasgow University where she is pursuing a degree in dentistry. Hijab was never an obstacle in the life of the young Muslim.
“Wearing a hijab was my own choice. I went away to perform Umrah with my family when I was 11, and on our way back to the UK, I saw my mum started wearing hijab. So I asked her why was she wearing that and then she told me [how it was a religious obligation], so I decided to wear one as well,” said Abtaha.
“It was really important for me at that time as it is now and I’m going to keep wearing that”, she added.
Though she never faced any cultural barriers herself, she hopes to inspire young Muslim girls to overcome any roadblocks they face.
“I really hope that people, when seeing me, could realize that it is possible to play cricket and wear hijab at the same time. And there are people out there who can support young girls through it if they really want to play cricket at a high level or any other professional sport for that matter.”
A growing number of Muslim women have been taking part in different sports recently, in a celebration of diversity.
According to Sport England, only 18 percent of Muslim women take part in sports, compared to 30 percent of the total female population.
Six years ago, the figures were as low as 12 percent – indicating a rise in Muslim women taking up sport and fitness.