Sorry for the clunky title, guys. Sometimes when you’re trying to get a point across you’ve just really gotta spell it out.
Anyways, a female powerlifter who wears a hijab while competing was recently crowned Best Lifter at the 2018 World Powerlifting Association’s World Cup in Moscow, Russia.
Majiziya Bhanu took the gold for India after lifting the highest accumulated total in the squat, bench and deadlift in her weight category—see, there’s the numerical measure.
Bhanu, a dental student from Kerala, has previously competed as both a bodybuilder and an arm wrestler, reflecting her dedication to sports that require you to be perpetually hench.
However, her journey to powerlifting stardom via bodybuilding and arm wrestling has not been easy. For one thing, her village lacked the facilities for her to train, so she would travel 60 kilometres by train to a gymnasium in the town Kozhikode. And as is often the depressing, predictable case in male-dominated fields, she’s also faced barriers because she’s A) a woman and B) a muslim woman in a hijab.
As recently as last year, the 24-year-old struggled to gain sponsorship because of her hijab.
“When you sponsor a Muslim woman sportsperson, things are different,” she explained to Muslim News. “It is not like sponsoring any other player. They do not want their names to be attached to a hijab-clad sportswoman; there’s still a stigma associated with a Muslim woman venturing out into sports, especially the way I do.”
And what is that “way”? Well, it basically involves going hard in the gym and dismissing anyone who doubts her.
“The kind of powerlifting I’m doing requires a strong mindset and confidence,” she said. “In the initial days, men used to stare at me as I had my hijab on. But soon they realised that I was as serious as them in my workouts. Then all the eyes disappeared.”
See, there’s the more intangible-strength-measure.
While a few wallets in the fitness industry may shy away from Bhanu’s hijab, the powerlifter has never seen it as a hindrance—far from it.
“I feel proud to wear the hijab, which is a part of my identity. It does not limit me in any way but gives me dignity and strength.”
Bhanu argues that if a woman is free to reveal her body, she should be free to cover it as well. When you combine her principled outlook with her powerlifting performance, it’s little wonder she’s become such an inspiration to other woman in her village.
“Many young girls and women have started coming to me to seek advice on what needs to be done as they also want to do what I am doing. Now there is a gym in my village.”
We’ve profiled a lot of strong hijabis on Ummahsonic so you know we were always going to hype up a strong hijabi who also throws down in the weight room. It’s just common sense.
Fortunately, it seems Bhanu’s legacy of strength could be set to rub off on future generations.
“I will pursue my dream of setting up an academy which will be a multi-disciplinary one, including martial arts, powerlifting, arm-wrestling and bodybuilding,” she told Muslim news.”
It would give special importance to girls. I am sure I will be able to pursue my passion and wish to empower women.”