Many women within the Muslim community, especially those that observe the religious attire, face difficulty in finding a safe space to be active. Yashmin Harun BEM founder of the Muslimah Sports Association (MSA) began to explore avenues to provide spaces in which Muslim women could participate without compromising their values. She combats barriers with solutions in her vision to create a space, that is welcoming to all and safe to be ‘you’. Her success lies in the community which she has created of likeminded women; thus, visible by the increase of participants, the variety of sports available and major awards. Yashmin has spoken about how MSA has the model and potential to grow nationally to engage with Muslim and BAME women across the UK. The perspective of MSA, the influence it has had on the community will be highlighted by trustees, coaches, and participants in case studies to follow.

Zareen Ikramuallah

Zareen Ikramullah is a volunteer for MSA and is currently completing her badminton level 1 coaching award. Having a vast array of opportunities provided by MSA has allowed for coaches and BAME women to be assisted in aspects of sport and personal life. ‘I have learned to be more confident and stand up for what I feel is right.’ Having a sense of responsibility in areas that seem foreign to one's culture tends to uplift and motivate, as stated by Zareen. Service users are not only given the opportunity to just participate but attaining transferable skills to further excel in the sector through personal growth. ‘I feel I have grown to become a much happier person.

Through MSA, I have been able to attend a number of training events within Redbridge which help and are all part of my personal development.’ MSA really concentrates on getting the most out of the local community as mentioned by Zareen, but the BAME community tends to face barriers within sports which hinders one's experience. ‘I feel BAME women are looked down on. Society sees us as wives and mothers and not as an individual. Having responsibilities to fulfil alongside having a passion for sports, brings barriers in itself, especially being a young female wanting to participate in sports or coaching. ‘I would advise going for it’ She further added: ‘In MSA there are lots of women who would like to do sports – especially after having a child. Female coaches are limited, and we are in need more!’ This shows that there is always a way to get into or back into sports even after starting a family, and MSA has several members that have fallen within this bracket. However, there is always a demand for female coaches, especially within the BAME community where there are not as many.

Nafisa Patel

Nafisa Patel is a Level 2 cricket coach but started off playing badminton then she gradually leaned towards volunteering for MSA. All this occurred as she came across a social media poster showing free badminton lessons within a relative distance. For MSA it is important to get the local community active, what better than staying connected to the sport, not only as a participant but as a coach. ‘In the last year, I have probably coached more than I’ve played. I think both are important. For me, participation as a player is where the inspiration to coach has come from and I thoroughly enjoy playing. As a coach trying to provide opportunities for others to have fun and be inspired is also fulfilling.’ Having a pioneering mindset for change intertwines with MSAs motive for change.

MSA also provides platforms for their participants to excel in their chosen sport, by showcasing pathways they can undertake to engage their community. ‘MSA has shown me that there are women who enjoy the sport but have expressed the barriers to playing that still exist. This is one of the reasons I try to help where I can help break down the barriers.’ There is still a drive to do more within the community especially when BAME women are seen to have the least active lifestyle. Nafisa holds a real passion in this sector suggesting ideas to combat barriers within the community. 'Providing opportunities for all groups within society to have some form of activities for them i.e. over 60’s, mums with young kids, working individuals. A stronger sense of working partnerships, not just with sporting groups, could help engage with all the different groups.’ This will then address wider issues that affect today's society, thus the importance of highlighting the benefits of sports to communities which see sports through an abnormal perspective.

Yasmin Hussain

Yasmin Hussain is a Level 1 coach for the MSA football team, previously a participant within the football team, and now a FA level 1 coach. MSA makes sure that its participants, coaches are aware of the impact they can have. Mentioning impact, Yasmin spoke about how she was influenced into applying for her FA coaching badge. ‘I was searching for information about the MSA football session as I wanted to start to play football again. While searching for the timetable I came across a post which said there was 1 space available for the FA level 1 course. That moment I felt that this was meant to be, something I wanted to do but did not realise until I came across it. I registered for the course and 3 days later started my coaching journey.’

MSA’s philosophy and visions do resonate with those that are a part of the association. ‘MSA vision is something I am passionate about; I share the same vision trying to get more women becoming active and giving them the opportunity to play without compromising their religion. MSA has supported me continuously through my coaching journey and being able to get women playing indoor football to competing in a league and engage with the local community is something we are proud of.’ Yasmin has a real hands-on approach to see inclusivity thrive and to better the sporting experience. Being visible is important, and to have an association like MSA gives a new look to sports in the area. Before MSA was founded in 2014 Yasmin mentions ‘there wasn’t anything like them in the area, and I don’t think there is anything still anything like them now.’ there is still a lot to do in terms of getting more involved, however, it takes more than one to achieve this.