Activist Shireen Ahmed to discuss Muslim women in sports

GVL / Courtesy -
Doaa El-Gobashy and Nada Meawad compete at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

GVL / Courtesy – Doaa El-Gobashy and Nada Meawad compete at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

Theresa Mueller

Grand Valley State University will welcome Shireen Ahmed, writer, athlete, public speaker and sports activist, to lead a discussion on Muslim women in sports Tuesday, Oct. 24. Ahmed’s discussion, “Unveiling Greatness: Muslim Women in Sports,” will be held in the Kirkhof Center, Room 2204, from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. 

During this time, Ahmed will cover a wide range of topics pertaining to the intersections of race, religion and gender in sports. Her discussion will focus on the lack of representation of female sports journalists and, more specifically, Muslim women in sports. 

Ahmed creates awareness by offering an exclusive perspective of Muslim women in sports and specifically African-American women and how they are often not considered in discussions of Muslim women in sports. 

Ahmed is active in the sports community through her journalistic work, advocacy for athletes, coaching, mentoring and public speaking. She finds various ways to communicate with others through published articles, blogs, podcasts and tweets. 

Louis Moore, event coordinator, associate history professor and coordinator of African and African-American studies at GVSU, first discovered Ahmed’s work on Twitter. While continuing to follow her work, Moore eventually decided to reach out to her.

Bringing Ahmed to speak at GVSU has been a collaborative effort between African and African-American studies, Middle East studies, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the global studies and social impact department, sociology department, and the Gayle R. Davis Center for Women and Gender Equity. 

“(The departments) haven’t had anyone speak about this,” Moore said. “It’s very rare someone speaks specifically about Muslim women in sports. It’s such a new and hot topic, and I think it’s good for people to learn.” 

Moore views sports as a window to talking about Muslim-Americans as this environment is only one of the many fields where race, gender and religion intersect.

Sebastian Maisel, program coordinator for Middle East studies and associate professor of Arabic at GVSU, discussed the critical perspective Ahmed offers for the understanding of Islam as a global religion. 

“The current discourse (of Islam) is very negative and stereotyped,” Maisel said. “(But) Islam is a global religion that impacts all societies.”

Maisel noted the importance of Ahmed being an athlete who covers her hair. He said the way in which some Muslim women dress is often singled out in the U.S. and debated around the world. Many people misinterpret the act of covering one’s head to be a sign of oppression, creating an idea that “something is wrong with Muslim women,” Maisel said. But, he said covering one’s hair is a choice for Muslim women.

Moore and Maisel believe the discussion about Muslim women in sports will offer many angles from which all students can benefit.

“I think it will be great for students to listen to stories of Ahmed,” Maisel said. “(They) are not easy topics to talk about.”

Moore believes the lecture will also enhance the sense of inclusivity around campus. 

“I just want (students) to learn something new and be open to different people and their backgrounds,” Moore said. 

The event is LIB 100- and 201-approved.