Negative views of Muslims prevail in many parts of British society, largely due to well established conspiracy theories, such as the view that people following this faith plan on “taking over the country”, alongside the disproportionate representation in media, with 60% displaying Muslims in a negative light.
To support this campaign, we would like to highlight the amazing work of a recent Incubator programme graduate, Haroon Mota and his group, Muslim Hikers.
Haroon Mota's Muslim Hikers
We recently ran an Incubator as part of the OUTO (Opening Up The Outdoors) programme, which unites a number of the UK’s leading outdoor brands as they try to pave the way for more industry changemakers to ensure the outdoors becomes accessible to all
One of the inspiring changemakers to be on this programme was Haroon Mota, marathon runner and founder of the CIC Active Inclusion Network.
What started off as an Instagram page to promote connection for the Muslim hiker community during lockdown has now grown into a global community of over 40,000 people.
"I've always felt very welcome outdoors, but it is not a coincidence that we are most underrepresented when it comes to sport and physical activity."
Physical exercise and the being in nature has proven to have extremely beneficial effects on people’s well-being. Accessing these spaces, however, is not equitable for all.
According to a Natural England Study, less than three in 10 people from Asian backgrounds spend time in the countryside.
Growing up in a city, Haroon didn’t really experience nature until he was a teenager, when he went on a school trip to Snowdonia, where he fell in love with the scenes of the Welsh landscape.
“I think it’s so important to try and help understand what the barriers are for our community, then do more to try and get ourselves outside.”
“The reason why we set up Muslim Hikers was so we can create a community where people feel safe, a community where people can thrive… and hike confidently.”
“We want to facilitate and nurture relationships with these national parks so that people can see these as places where they feel comfortable and happy, where they feel safe and where they feel that they can belong.”
“The idea is to empower them so that they have the awareness and confidence to be able to do this independently, whether that’s solo travel or coming back with their friends or their family.”
Haroon’s sisters, Husnaa and Tayyibah Mota, are also combatting the stereotypes associated with British Muslim or Asian women by demonstrating their enjoyment of exercise and the outdoors.
Husnaa told the BBC “It’s good to show everyone else, other Muslims and hijabis, that it’s OK – you can do crazy things and you can still have fun. You can be outdoors and enjoy being outdoors even though you’re wearing a hijab.”
See more about how the Mota family are tackling exercise stereotypes in their BBC We Are England documentary episode: My Walking Family
Championing Diversity Outdoors
The theme for the Islamaphobia Awareness Month campaign this year is #tacklingdenial of Islamophobia.
The denial of Islamophobic views not only contributes to the barriers Muslims face in various societal spheres but also contributes to the violence enacted towards people of this faith, whether this is online or in person.
Islamophobia facilitates a system where Muslims are disproportionately less likely to get hired than their white counterparts, and less accountability is put on our political system when clearly racialised bills are being put forward.
We are so encouraged to see changemakers like Haroon Mota championing a diverse space for all in the outdoors, and look forward to seeing less barriers towards accessing any space in society for all.