I am so excited to be sharing this interview with you. Amira is a beautiful, kind and strong woman who is not only speaking up for the BAME community but is taking incredible steps to represent a hugely underrepresented community including “Wonderlust Women” a group for women from the BAME community to hike together. Like a lot of people at the moment, I am trying to educate myself in racism, I asked Amira some pretty basic questions but questions I have wanted to ask in the past but had been too worried to. You can find Amira on Instagram @amira_thewanderlust and @the.wanderlust.women
1. Can you tell us about your heritage?
I’m a British Indian Muslim. My grandparents are from South Asia from India and Burma. My mother was born in Preston and my father came from India in his teens.
2. Can you tell us more about being Muslim and the beliefs you have? (Sorry I know this is very vague but I know there are different Islamic beliefs)
A Muslim is a person that submits to one god, Allah, and believes in the final messenger, Muhammed peace be upon him. Muslims believe in the holy Quran which is our guidance for life. There are five pillars of Islam which are the foundations of our religion. The five pillars are belief in one god and the Last Prophet Muhammed (pbuh), Salah -5 daily prayers, Zakaat -giving charity, Sawm- fasting in the holy month of Ramadan, Hajj – pilgrimage to the holy lands.
3. Can you tell us more about the religious clothes you were? And do you always wear them?
Islam has strongly emphasized the concept of decency and modesty in the interaction between members of the opposite sex. Dress code is part of that overall teaching. As our Holy Prophet has quoted ‘modesty is a branch of faith’. I wear the niqab as a personal act of worship, and I deeply believe that it brings me closer to God, the Creator. I find the niqab liberating and dignifying; it gives me a sense of strength. Niqab enables me to be, simply, human. The hijab, niqab, and the clothing I wear is a representation of who I am.
Yes, I do always wear my hijab, niqab and abaya (Islamic dress) when I am out.
4. What food do you take on hikes?
I usually make homemade sandwiches and salads, plenty of snacks and fruit, and some more snacks 🙂
5. What times of the day do you have to pray and do these prayers have a specific meaning?
There are five daily prayers Fajr , Dhur, Asr, Magrib , Esha
• Salat al-fajr: dawn, before sunrise
• Salat al-zuhr: midday, after the sun passes its highest
• Salat al-‘asr: the late part of the afternoon
• Salat al-maghrib: just after sunset
• Salat al-‘isha: between sunset and midnight
6. I was surprised to read that you don’t listen to music, is that on certain days or in general?
My religion prohibits listening to music due to various reasons. Our religion is a religion of peace and whatever we have been ordered to do is for our own benefit. We abstain from anything that is harmful to our mind, body and soul. Nasheeds (Islamic songs) are moral, religious songs sung in various melodies by some Muslims of today without any musical instruments. However, some nasheed groups use percussion instruments, such as the daff which is permissible.
7. Do you have a place of worship (sorry not sure if it is a mosque)?
A mosque is a place where Muslims worship and pray to God. Some mosques are also places where Muslims get together and discuss things or where religious education takes place. The five daily prayers are prayed in the mosques in congregation. In terms of praying, we believe any place anywhere is a place of worship ( besides unclean places such as the bathroom ). I love to pray in the mountains when I’m hiking as I feel I can really connect myself with my lord.
8. I know there are some people in this country that think Muslim women have no rights, can you tell us how the men in your family feel about you solo hiking?
This is a big misconception, in fact, Muslim women have been given so many rights, Over fourteen hundred years ago, Islam gave women rights. My family have been very supportive in what I do and really encouraged me and that’s why I am where I am today. The males in my family are supportive but at the same time, they do have concerns in regards to my safety as you hear of many racial attacks especially to those women who wear the hijab and niqab.
9. How do you think outdoor brands can represent the BAME community?
I think in terms of advertising products if there are more BAME people being represented and their voices being heard. Supporting diverse groups and speaking about race and other issues. It’s not just about sticking a brown person on the cover of a brand but it’s about really educating on the issues so many people face and what the solutions could be. This is what we need.
10. Is there something that the outdoor brands could make that would help with your beliefs?
Yes , modest hiking wear,I really struggle to find this, there are a few companies out there but there is a niche in the market for modest outdoor wear. I know a lot of Muslim women struggle to find suitable gear and it can put them off coming back to the outdoors. The outdoors is becoming more diverse and brands should represent all.
11. Do you think there is more local councils/government could do to make the outdoors more accessible?
Yes, supporting diverse groups, funding where needed as a lot of the work these groups do are voluntary. There has to be a starting point and if the government will encourage young people from diverse communities to get into to the outdoors a lot of changes can be made.
12. How could someone find out more about Muslim culture?
Never listen to the media always find a trustworthy source. Reading, speaking to Muslims and asking questions. You can also get English versions of the Quran so you can educate yourself by reading the truth. There is so much negativity out there especially in the media about Islam so it is very important to educate ourselves
13. How can we be more respectful when out?
I guess just making sure everyone feels welcome and instead of judging Muslims finding out about their faith and understanding them.
14. Although you shouldn’t have to, do you ever worry about speaking out?
I’ve never been worried about speaking out I was worried about being heard. Now I do feel more people are becoming aware of diversity in the outdoors and are becoming aware of racism. Muslim women must raise their heads, speak on behalf of themselves and platforms should be given to them.
15. Have you experienced racism in your daily life?
Yes. Islamophobia does exist in the UK. Prime minister Boris Johnson compared women who wear the niqab to “letterboxes” and “bank robbers”, this is quite ironic now as face coverings have become mandatory. Muslim women for years have faced scrutiny for covering the face, this topic is always being discussed in the media. As I mentioned in my previous interview people do stare, laugh point at you and make racist comments. Comments such as go home, Terrorist, ninja etc are common comments which we face in our daily lives
16. You spoke in your last interview about being stared at, do people ever come and ask about what you are wearing?
I will get comments which vary from are you not hot in that? don’t know how you do it in this heat being covered? but no one has ever actually ask why I wear it.
17. How would you feel if someone came up to you and started asking questions?
I would happily answer as long as they don’t make me feel uncomfortable.
18. Do you celebrate Ramadan, if so, do you hike during this time?
Yes, Ramadhan is my favourite month, a month filled with peace, blessings and spiritual enlightenment. Whilst I’m fasting I stick to shorter walks and flat walks, I don’t hike big hills or mountains as It can be difficult hiking long hours without water.
19. Can you tell us about your relationship plans, will your partner be Muslim? Would you go on adventures with him?
Yes, my partner will be Muslim, and yes of course. I look forward to the adventure days with my future spouse. Even if he doesn’t have the same passion as me for the outdoors I think it’s important to be with someone who supports what you do and is willing to partake in your hobbies.
20. Finally, can you tell us more about the wanderlust women?
“The wanderlust women “is a group I created for females targeted at BAME and Muslim women to encourage them into the outdoors. My future goals is to create outdoor meditation retreats for women. As a Muslim we remember god at all times and whilst being in nature we are enable to appreciate the beautiful world God has made for us, “Connecting to God ( Allah ) through nature.” I believe being active in the outdoors is good for your mental health as well as your physical health and this is why I want to encourage these women to get outdoors. Nature’s beauty is one of the most wonderful blessings gifted to mankind by Allah the Almighty. Allah has created nature not only for our physical existence but also for our psychological well-being.