Muslim female boxers featured in documentary

The narrative of the female who shows strength through fighting — be it at home, in school, at work, in sports or simply day to day in a society that has historically mistreated her — is one that resonates with women (and hopefully men, insha’Allah) across all walks of life.

Whether she lives in the allegedly free and liberated West, or the allegedly oppressive and conservative East, a woman’s figurative battles presented in literal form often inspire powerful pieces of art.

Such is the case with “Ramadan’s Female Boxers,” a short film produced and directed by British journalist Pete Kowalczyk that was first released in November 2015 and then released online last week:

Ramadan's female boxers from Pete Kowalczyk on Vimeo.

The documentary follows Saira Tabasum, Naila Kiani and Ambreen Sadiq, three women of Pakistani-British descent who are at different stages of their boxing careers.

Saira is attempting to parlay a successful university boxing stint into victories at a higher level. Naila is an amateur fighter who has moved from the United Kingdom to Dubai in an effort to make female boxing more visible and accepted. Ambreen is a former champion in the UK who is facing what may be the end of her fighting days.

We meet the three boxers while they are training during Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting which is notoriously hard on athletes who — like millions of Muslims around the world — abstain from food and water during daylight hours for 30 days while focusing on prayer, charity, reading the Quran, and remembrance of Allah [swt].

Kowalczyk, who made the film on a budget of less than 500 US dollars, has shown the film at schools and in several communities around the UK. Now his project is going global.

“I wanted to make a film that would dispel some of the misconceptions of Muslim communities in the UK, to try and debunk this idea of ‘the other.’ I think there’s still a fair amount of ignorance and misunderstanding in the UK about our Muslim communities,” Kowalczyk says. “But more than that, this film tries to say, who cares what race, gender or faith you associate with? These girls slay in the ring, and that’s all that matters.”

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