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  1. ITV Report

En Garde! Muslim girls fence against Islamophobia

Photo: ITV News Central
  • By Iram Sarwar

A school in Birmingham is leading the way in tackling Islamophobia by getting young girls to learn fencing.

The ‘Muslim Girls Fence’ project at Stockland Green school is run by charity Maslaha and British Fencing and is aimed at tackling negative stereotypes against muslim girls and boosting self-confidence.

Zulaykha Fiaz Credit: ITV News Central

The project gets girls to paint an alternative picture of themselves and has been praised for engaging girls at a time when anti-muslim hate crime is on the rise.

  • Watch: Muslim girls tackle Islamophobia

It is not an easy time to be a Muslim girl in the UK. Persistent negative stereotyping, combined with counter-extremism policies that are operating to stigmatise young Muslims, mean that more than ever Muslim girls and women find themselves spoken for as opposed to spoken to. This project aims to reinstateMuslim girls as their own storytellers, and to open up a space for Muslim girls to articulate and express their identity on their own terms.

– Latifa Akay, Maslaha

The classes are open for all to attend and also aim to break down misconceptions that fencing is an elite sport that is not accessible.

Aya Al-Timimi Credit: ITV News Central

Fencing has had this upper, middle class, white man's stereotype for so long and it's not the case. We have such a diverse cross section of the country fencing and it's nice to involved on something to improve that.

– Lynne Melia, fencing coach

The classes have been inspired by American fencer Ibtihaj Muhmmad, who made history at the Rio Olympics as the first woman to represent the US while wearing a hijab.

Aaliyah Patel Credit: ITV News Central

The classes are set to be rolled out across the UK over the next few years. For now these girls are on their way to redefining what it means to be a Muslim woman.