Muslim ‘female heroes’ ride inspires women

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Written by Sally Morrow

(RNS) To celebrate their 50th birthdays, Mara Gubuan and her Urbandale, Iowa, high school classmates invited six elite Muslim female athletes to RAGBRAI, the annual bicycle ride that took place this week (July 19-25) across the Hawkeye State.

The idea was to “create a counter-narrative” to dispel the misconception that Muslim women don’t compete in sports. The riders of Team Shirzanan, from mostly Muslim countries, showed it could be done, even while wearing headscarves during July’s summer heat.

Gubuan founded Team Shirzanan by collecting donations, through her nonprofit companyShirzanan Global, a media and advocacy platform empowering Muslim female athletes. “Shirzanan” means “female heroes” in the Persian language.

The team includes the first female from Saudi Arabia to climb Mount Everest, a Pakistani Olympic swimmer, a Pakistani- American Olympic weightlifter and an Iranian surfer and snowboarder.

The team, along with thousands of other cyclists, joined this year’s 481.5-mile route, from Sioux City to Davenport.