Over the past year, Ummahsonic has been introduced to a number of incredible female Muslim athletes. We’ve seen Ruqsana Begum, the champion kickboxer; Ibtihaj Muhammad, the hijabi Olympic fencer who only went and had a Barbie designed after her; and of course the countless Muslim women balling out on the court, running on the track, and powerlifting in a hijab.
So while it may come as a shock to some, news of a Muslim women in Australia working her way to boxing glory doesn’t surprise us. Even so, her incredible story outside of the ring deserves to be heard by you.
Bianca Elmir is a boxer from Canberra. The 35-year-old, nicknamed Bam Bam, has firmly established herself in the sport in her country, and she now wants to use her position to inspire other women to take on the challenges that stand in their way. After all, Bianca has had to navigate some big obstacles of her own.
Although born in Saudi Arabia, Bianca spent the first years of her life in Lebanon. When she was two, her parents divorced, and it was decided that she would live with her father’s parents. Her mother could only see her on weekends. Despite being of Lebanese heritage, Bianca’s mother was born and raised in Australia until her marriage. Unhappy about her young daughter’s living situation and jarred by the culture shock of Lebanon, her mother made a bold decision.
‘One weekend she picked me up in a car, sped to Beirut airport, got on a plane and called her parents from Sydney,’ Bianca explained to the Sydney Morning Herald. ‘She told them we were in Australia. She told them we were never coming back.’
Bianca, who has also competed in kickboxing, is currently working towards her goal of making the Australian Commonwealth Games team in 2018, a milestone that could ultimately see her turn professional. She hopes her success will show people that Islam and sport are not mutually exclusive, and that boxing can empower women no matter their faith.
Her desire to fight, Bianca says, comes from her mother – even though she initially disapproved of her daughter boxing: ‘Mum, for all her disagreement about fighting, is the biggest fighter of all. She took on the world to kidnap me from my father.
‘Mum did it tough. She fought her family, who thought kidnapping me was wrong. She forged her own life in Australia without any financial or emotional support. She found a job and house in Canberra and made sure I had all the necessities.’
Bianca is yet another powerful athlete who is carving out a path in her chosen sport and shattering tired misconceptions about women and Islam. As we mentioned at the beginning, a ‘female Muslim athlete’ is no anomaly.
We wish her every success in qualifying for the Commonwealth Games.