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HomeSportSkater Uktis Shows Sisters Can’t Shake the Love of Skate Boarding

Skater Uktis Shows Sisters Can’t Shake the Love of Skate Boarding

Writer and keen Skater girl Shaheena Uddin dives deep into the skating bowl with global girl skater group Skater Uktis.

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Writer and keen Skater girl Shaheena Uddin dives deep into the skating bowl with global girl skater group Skater Uktis.

By Shaheena Uddin

Even during the rise of skater girls in the 90s and Y2K pop culture, safe spaces for Muslim women within the already niche sphere of female skaters, remained scarce. However, representation of hijabi skateboarders became more visible in advertising and art in recent years through Nike ads or films like ‘Skater Girl’ on Netflix. Yet iconography of Muslim women on skateboards often serves to create an Orientalist juxtaposition between a supposedly “oppressed object” and their “liberating vehicle”; or more cynically, to capitalise on the Muslim market.

Skater Uktis, a global crew of Muslim female skaters, hopes to change all of that. Hafsah Mohammed, a member of the Skater Uktis’ head team, explains.

“As many people may know, the current skate scene is very much the opposite of what our target audience is and what our sisterhood consists of — Muslim women. Some of our team members have mentioned that they have attended skate parks and were greeted by stares and mild hostility. But this is just another motivation for us to keep the movement thriving and occupy spaces unapologetically,” says Mohammed.

Mohammed, along with Amna Z and a small group of their university friends in London, established Skater Uktis just before the pandemic. It was a way to bring Muslim sisters together over a shared love of skateboarding, both online and in open air spaces.

They were inspired by the need to create a space where Muslim women felt confident and nurtured by others. The movement quickly expanded internationally, with teams setting up overseas. The project now spans over twenty countries including: Norway, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Australia, USA, Canada, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Tunisia, Iraq, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand.

Platforms like Zoom were instrumental in facilitating this set up, so people could join in from any location in the world and from all walks of life to share their lived experiences with fellow Muslim women. Skaters around the world are now encouraged to find their local Skater Uktis rep to become a member and attend upcoming meet-ups in their country of residence.

What makes the Skater Uktis’ movement stand out is that they deliberately avoid tokenizing Muslim women on skateboards or seeing it as a “progressive” escape from Islam. Instead, it defines itself as an “organisation that merges the worlds of Islam and skateboarding to foster personal development and cultivate exceptional leaders”.

According to Mohammed, the aim is to implement Islam in everything they do.

“We wanted to combine faith and skateboarding as a means of ethical leadership for Muslim women across the board. We are taught that we should strive to do things with Ihsan (excellence) and to be in spaces that help us grow our leadership qualities. You need mental, as much as physical resilience to persevere in this sport and a lot of this comes from prayers,” says Mohammed.

According to Mohammed, skateboarding humbles you in the sense that, no matter how skilled you become, you are bound to make mistakes, trip and fall.

“Similarly, it’s inevitable for humans to sin. The urge to give up whenever you’re not immediately good at something new is tempting, but it is essential to persevere if you want to nourish both personal and spiritual growth. We are taught that keeping ourselves healthy is a key element in Islam. Our bodies are to be returned to our Creator and we should take the utmost care of our bodies. With skateboarding, one is always falling and failing, which gives them a chance to understand their strengths and weaknesses. Similarly, when one is learning about Islam, they undergo the mental hurdles of also understanding their strengths and weaknesses to become more knowledgeable,” says Mohammed.

On top of skating meetups, Skater Uktis regularly run online spiritual sessions to bring women together in order to strengthen their faith and boost their iman.

Skating isn’t just about the community; it is also associated with hipster culture and resistance against mainstream norms in favour of self-expression. Skater Uktis embodied this spirit of resistance by co-organising the “Skaters against Genocide” coalition bloc. They skated to protests and have voiced their support for Palestine, Sudan, Congo and all communities suffering from genocide.

“Skating has been proven by many writers, researchers and even skaters themselves, on how it can be used as a form of resistance alongside a form of expression in countries like Palestine. As Maen Hammad wrote, ‘Skateboarding allows us to zoom into the global pitfalls swarming our surroundings, our space.’ The skateboarding scene has become more and more political since the situation in Gaza. The history behind it comes from a form of rebellion from all the outcasts who didn’t want to be put into a box,” says Mohammed.

Skater Uktis have come a long way since 2020, earning several notable achievements. They have been recognised by big sporting brands such as Vans Middle East in their ‘Keys to the Kingdom’ campaign, highlighting trailblazers who are changing the skateboarding world in more ways than one. They were also featured by Reebok in its ‘The Invitation Surrounds You’ campaign, highlighting women who are changing the skateboarding world and inspiring the next generation.

The Skater Uktis crew has also presented an exhibition & workshop at ‘Al Burdah Festival’, a multidisciplinary platform, engaging in cutting-edge dialogues around the present and future of Islamic arts and culture. The project has also been commemorated by Vogue Arabia in the September 2022 issue, shedding light on ‘Young Movers and Shakers of the Arab World Who are Driving Change Everywhere’, as well as being featured in the publications Gal-dem and Eko magazine. They were also invited to speak on a podcast for the Design Museum about ‘Skateboarding Communities and Wellbeing’.

More recently, the movement has been the subject of a short documentary film by director and producer, Mehek Azmathulla. The film premiered at BFI Southbank, as part of the Dialled in ‘Unbound Archives’ series in March and more recently in Skate & Surf Film Festival (Milan- June 1st- June 2nd) and London Indian Film Festival (26 June – 4th July).

According to Azmathulla, the “wheels” first started turning for her when she came across a Skater Uktis reel on her Instagram feed.

“Popular media paints a very narrow picture of skateboarding. But stumbling upon Skater Uktis shattered these preconceptions. Suddenly, I saw skateboarding not as just a sport, but as an inherently ‘public’ act. It defies the need for a designated arena; the streets are your runway really. Being a Muslim girl and choosing to do something so ‘public’ was intriguing. I wanted to explore the public and the personal. How one’s personal relationship with faith coexists with something as ‘public’ as skateboarding,” says Azmathulla.

Skateboarding is a lot like life, you will falter, you will get hurt, and your iman will have highs and lows. However, it is important to remember that the pain is temporary, and the journey is short. Just as you balance between the air and ground on your skateboard, this dunya is the world that exists between heaven and hell. You simply must ride the waves of life to get to your destination.

Note from the Editor: This featured has been edited from its original publication here.

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