MZAB magazine caught up with Sabah and Muneera exploring their outdoors initiative ‘Black Muslim Women Bike’. Read on as we explore the minds of these two adventurers and the inspiration behind this initiative.
Who is behind Black Muslim Women Bike?
Muneera: Black Muslim Women Bike started almost by accident, I started cycling just before lockdown when advised to do so by the doctor due to an on going injury I had from running. I was told I need to build muscle and I may never be able to run again which was devastating because I had been running on and off since about 2014 when my friend Nisa Ali come to visit me in the UK and told me about a triathlon she was training for.
So when the doctor told me that, I thought at least I can try cycling. Good thing, in terms of timing, because little did I know in just a few weeks later bikes would be sold out everywhere. Unbeknown to me Sabah had already started cycling, before she moved to Dubai. We also have other members who are not so visible, but who are equally valuable Mona and Rashida.
What are both your philosophies in life?
Muneera: I am not sure about philosophy, I am still trying to figure that out but I have lived by different principles and have had different mantras which have been relevant at different points in my life. This year is a big year for me because I had a landmark birthday, which was if I am truthful, difficult, I have never had an issue with age but this time was different. The mantra that took me up to that point was I am good enough, I do enough and I have enough. The mantras or sentiments that have taken me over that point are be eternally grateful, safeguard your time, space and sanity, remove yourself to those things that are a threat to that and I try to always interrogate yourself, seek to grow.
Sabah: My philosophy in life is that you should live while you are alive and you should give others that same privilege. We shouldn’t judge people for the choices they make, because we all make bad decisions. You should do what you want with your life, as long as it makes you happy and causes no harm to others. Happiness is all we can hope for in this world and we have to strive to achieve it.
Muneera: I used to be an emcee and I am a poet, so this is really difficult for me.
Sabah: One of my favourite quote is by Harriet Tubman “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” –
What made you start Black Muslim Women Bike?
Muneera: Unbeknown to me Sabah had been cycling, a while before me, I am not sure how we had not been aware of our individual cycling journey. It was only when Sabah left the country and I started sharing my cycling journey publicly that we started encouraging each other. We decided to share our journey in a more formal way to encourage people generally while centering Black Muslim Women.
Sabah: During lockdown I had the pleasure of reconnecting with old childhood pastimes and things that brought me joy that I had long forgotten about. I highly recommend tapping back into that energy. It is amazing! While cycling I did not see any other women that looked like me on the roads and online. Black Muslim women have been part of all types of sports but because we are a minority we don’t usually see that many women out there. This page was created to showcase all the amazing women that cycle and have been cycling but also to encourage more women to cycle and take up space wherever they may want. This is also for young girls who do not feel like they can be part of certain sports or don’t see themselves seen.
What do you feel when cycling? What colour does it feel like/ why?
Muneera: Generally cycling feels like the most free thing on the planet.
In terms of colours, Gold and at times purple. Recently however I have had my third accident and the second in a short space of time. This has really shaken my confidence. Aside from injuries, which thankfully were not that bad, just confidence in terms of getting back on the bike, cycling at speed, being comfortable on the bike, the more psychological elements, which is problematic because being over cautious on the bike, actually makes you more susceptible to accidents. So like braking to much, slowing down, not wanting to take your hands of the handle bar- but this is something I love, and not prepared to let go of. The joy, wellbeing and sense of release I have gained, particularly in light of COVID highlighting the ramifications of living in a wildly unjust world for so long, release, a space away, has become paramount for me. So I just need to work my way out of the funk and gain confidence again.
What has been your favourite bike ride to date and why?
Muneera: My favourite ride to date has to be the Black Unity Bike Ride set up by @toksytoks He gathered all of the Black bike crews in London and we just started promoting. It was a ride of unity, of solidarity and of pride. It took place on Black pound day which made this have even more relevance, It was around the time of a lot of BLM marches, bikes were becoming more and more popular at these events, and we even saw some BLM bike rides mainly in America and Canada. I thought there would be something like two hundred people which in my mind was a success, but on that day there were thousands of people that showed up.
Sabah: The UAE has been pushing ahead with making most areas accessible to riders, whether they cycle for leisure or work. Cycling in Dubai is definitely my favourite place to ride as there are so many places that one can cycle. I love Al Barsha Park as it is surrounded by beautiful greenery and a stunning lake while cycling you can enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
Why is the space you have created necessary?
It is necessary because, we did not see anyone representing us, we did not see ourselves as Black Muslim Women. This is online as well as off. We created the platform because though we started cycling again at this age, we should have never stopped. We are trying to show young girls that it is okay for them to cycle, and they should not stop just because of how society may look down on them, we do this by showing examples of Black Muslim Women who do bike.
Could you tell us more about 2000km in 30 days and how people can get involved?
2000km in 30 days is a challenge we have set ourselves in order to raise money for the maternity and paediatric ward which is being built as part of the Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse Hospital which is currently under construction in Taiba Niassene in Kaolack, Senegal. Kaolack is a rural region in Senegal, and is home to over 170,000 people. Maternal death is an issue which can be easily reduced with better dedicated facilities for women and children. People can get involved by donating to the launchgood page we are also giving people the opportunity to join us by again donating, but also pledging kilometres. You can check out our instagram (@blackmuslimwomenbike) for more information.
What is your mission in life? Mission for Black Muslim Women Bike?
The mission is to continue to represent Black Muslim women who cycle, to take up space and to not let anyone feel like they don’t belong.
What is your proudest achievement so far with Black Muslim Women Bike?
2000km 30 days is our proudest moment, a few months ago I don’t know if we would even dream we could do this, and now we are at the point where we are doing it and encouraging other people to do it too, and it is all for charity.
Do you think in general Black women are encouraged to be “outdoorsy” why/why not?
No! I don’t think Black people are encouraged to be outdoorsy let alone black women. In Denmark, it is normal for everyone to be outdoorsy but it’s not the same in the UK. Thinking about growing up as young black girls in England and being a part of minority communities, there is a scrutiny that comes with being Black, and that comes with being a girl. To be straight, racism and patriarchy are at hand. Girls are told not to act a certain way, to pull their skirts down, to close their legs, they are told they can’t do what boys do, and eventually girls stop having fun in this way. The focus is on education, and girls become more housebound, whereas boys are still afforded the luxury of a childhood filled with play and adventure. Of course this is a generalisation. Additionally there is a lack of representation and opportunity for Black people to enter sports particularly of the outdoor kind, which also impacts.
What advice would you give to a nervous cyclist?
To keep on and not to stop. Being nervous is a normal part of life, our brain is trying to protect us and keep us safe, however we just have to keep on, and eventually we will get better. Try to have all of the safety items, gloves, helmet, lights ect, know that there will be accidents, but that is life generally. Cycle with someone who is more experienced in order to improve. If you are nervous to cycle on the road, then don’t go on the road until you are ready. There are opportunities to develop through clubs, and if you are in the UK most local authorities offer free training sessions.
Where is your favourite place to ride?
Dubai, because the government has spent money to make the road safe for cyclists, there are many cycling paths, which make it easy to cycle. There are so many parks, and if you are cycling on the road, drivers are really respectful of cyclists. My experience in England is different. Here people are so respectful and most of the time you are cycling in a dedicated lane.
Where do you see Black Muslim Women Bike in the next 5 years?
In 5 years time we would like to have grown within ourselves as skilled cyclists, because no matter how much you think you know, there is always more to learn. We would like to have grown our community and have encouraged more Black Muslim women to cycle as well as women who never thought that they could or would cycle. We would like the opportunity to work on more initiatives that supports vulnerable people, like raising money for charity and promoting health and well being.
Finally what is one short piece of advice you would tell your younger self/ young Black girls?
Don’t ever let anyone tell you you can’t do something, don’t let people discourage or stop you from doing things that you are good at, or things that you love.
I would say you are good enough, dream wild and big, you don’t have to fit into any boxes, though there will be hard times, you are lit, and stop focusing on man.
Muneera, Sabah, Mona and Rashida’s initiative can be followed on instagram @blackmuslimwomenbike