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This Photographer Shines A Light On Muslim-American Women Athletes

Eman Mohammed for NPR
Subreen Dari is a 33-year-old Palestinian-American weightlifter who aspires to compete in future Olympic Games.

As a member the Muslim-American community, photographer Eman Mohammed began thinking of how little she knows about other Muslim-American women and their accomplishments.

To change that, Mohammed decided to start a long-term portraiture project featuring Muslim-American women. As she began the project, she turned her attention to sports and what Muslim-American women's roles looked like in that field.

"The project isn't aiming to break stereotypes because these women already did the work and shattered it, " Mohammed said. "My goal is to highlight these women as they do it."

The photos document each women's unique path in the hopes to inspire other Muslim-American women and girls by seeing representation from their own community.

The project was started before the pandemic and is still ongoing.

Here are some of the athletes stories:

Subreen Dari

Subreen is a 33-year-old Palestinian-American weightlifter living in Strongsville, Ohio. Dari started her fitness journey when she dropped off her son at a sports training facility and met with his trainer, who gauged Subreen's interest in joining the female weightlifting team.

The mother of two, full-time office manager and part-time nursing student, became passionate about locally competing at weightlifting contests over the years. Dari describes her being one of very few Muslim-Hijabi women weightlifters in the sport.

"I feel so empowered, doing what I love and being good at it while remaining true to myself," Dari said. "It makes me proud as a mom. It humbles me to know I'm setting a positive example for my daughter Rihana, so when she imagines the future, she knows she can be anything she wants."

Dari is currently training for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

Aprar Hassan

Aprar Hassan is a 19-year-old, Muslim-American Karate athlete with a Sandan, which is a third-degree black belt. Hassan started playing karate when she was only 3-years-old. She encouraged by her father and karate instructor, Yasser Salama. Salama himself competed on the Egyptian national karate team before immigrating to Brooklyn, NY, in 1996.

By age 5, Hassan started competing at the U.S. national championships for karate. In 2017, she won her first national title.

She describes her journey as a young Muslim Hijabi karate athlete as challenging at times due to other's perception of her identity as a Muslim and the "lack of knowledge and ignorance of some individuals in the sport."

At The World Karate Championships in Scotland, where she was blindsided with the possibility of disqualifying her as a referee objected to her competing with a head-cover. Since it wasn't against the sport's guidelines, she was later allowed to compete.

In the following week, Hasan competed at the Nationals in Florida and won the gold medal again. However, the pandemic started and competitions had to be put on hold.

"For now, goals in Karate for competing will be set for fall 2021 and spring 2022, assuming things don't shut down again," Hassan said.

Sara Yogi

Sara is a 23-year-old Nepali-American skateboarder living in San Diego, California. Yogi's skating career started as a hobby only three years ago. Her appreciations for the sport goes beyond its fun moves and flip tricks.

"As a woman of color and Muslim Hijabi, I feel welcomed and accepted within the skater community here," Yogi said. "The competition is friendly and very focused on spreading the knowledge and passion about the fun of the sport. It's just a very positibe and impactful community."

Yogi's full-time job at retail doesn't stop her from clocking out just in time to hit the skateboard. She juggles work life and college classes, which has caused some delays in her advancement in skating and making the leap to train to compete professionally.

Follow Eman Mohammed on Instagram -@emanit
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