Ramadan 2022: Meet the Brummie Muslim Hikers defying countryside trolls

Small steps by a Muslim hiker have helped spark a nationwide movement. Coventry’s Haroon Mota began charting his exploits on his Instagram Page.

That has now developed into tone one of the fastest growing outdoor groups with Muslim Hikers across the UK being inspired to follow in his footsteps.

Haroon’s example has helped break down barriers for communities who might otherwise feel the countryside was not an accessible space. That feeling may not be without justification.

Read more: Why do Muslims fast during Ramadan?

The group made national headlines after they were targeted with racist abuse following a Christmas Day hike in the Peak District. They were met with racist replies after sharing photos of their trip accusing the group of damaging the area and not being “proper walkers”.

We spoke to Brummie members about how they joined Muslim Hikers, what they enjoy about exploring the outdoors and how they deal with any racist backlash. And with Ramadan underway, we asked how hikers strike the balance between fasting and remaining active.

Trolls only encourage me

One of the hikers who went along on the Christmas day hike was Amatuallah Campbell, an avid hiker who joined Muslim Hikers during lockdown. She said the whole situation at Christmas was ‘funny’ but ‘encouraged’ her to continue her passion.

“If anything it encouraged me to go on the next hike. If I enjoy hiking and at the same time I’m going to be irritating people, it sounds like a win to me. I think the trolls are trying to push the idea that the outdoors are only for them.I feel like it’s them trying to say it’s our thing.

Amatullah Campbell, 27 lives in Bordesley Green and has been hiking since last year in the lockdown.

“Although there were a few old trolls, the amount of support we got was incredible.” she said.

Amatullah found happiness in the group by encouraging her friends to come along on hikes to places like Carding Mill Valley. But she felt as a Black Muslim woman it would be difficult to hike alone. “If it wasn’t for the group I’m not sure I would go,” she said.

“Since being part of these groups like Muslim Hikers you can see the difference it makes and you can make friendships out of it too. Also to see the different hikes there are in the area.

“I would never do hiking alone so that’s what encouraged me to bring together a group – sometimes we’re the only hijab wearing hikers or at times the only black people. I think being Muslim and Black I would struggle to go hiking alone so it’s better to do it together. ” she said.

She added: “At the beginning you do feel out of place in the hiking landscapes but the only moment I did not feel out of place was when I went with Muslim Hikers.”

The Bordesley Green resident said she will be trying to keep the momentum going through Ramadan by taking up cycling as she wants to help the environment. Amatulllah is already part of MMA and Muy Thai groups.

“I really want to start cycling as to try something different but also as it’s good for the environment and I should start using my car less often.”

“I definitely became more plastic conscious – the amount of single-use plastic we use in the UK is insane. I follow TikToks talking about greener, cleaner options. I switched over to using filter for drinking water. I remember reading the labels on dishwashing liquid – there will always be micro-particles. On the back of Fairy it says it’s harmful to the environment. “

And on those who hurled abuse at the Muslim Hikers, she said: “Trolls will always have a problem no matter what you are doing – at the beginning it did feel very sad to see this sort of backlash.”

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The first lockdown of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020 changed how many people viewed their local areas and the outdoors in general. Millions found themselves confined to one local walk a day for exercise.

And as restrictions lifted, the only way to meet friends was outdoors. For many it opened their eyes to new activities but those from Asian or Black communities may have felt less than welcome.

A BBC Countryfile report in June 2020 suggested those from minority backgrounds felt unwelcome in the countryside. The story, looked into a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) report from 2019.

That report found people from black, Asian or minority ethnic communities as well as white people felt the UK’s national parks are very much a “white environment”. During the segment presenter Dwayne Fields said: “We need to understand some of the barriers that black and ethnic minority people face when they come to the countryside.”

The backlash faced by Muslim Hikers certainly backs up those findings and feeds into the perception the countryside is a ‘white environment’. By forming groups, hikes from a Muslim, or other minority backgrounds are making the countryside more accessible.

Some Muslim Hikers have even started their own YouTube channel, like 50 year old Shahid Mir from Alum Rock. He began his hiking journey around 10 years ago with a small number of his family. His love for fishing, hiking and the outdoors prompted him to start hiking every weekend.

“At the beginning I was not aware of these kind of hiking areas so it was shot in the dark and we have started to learn the ways through. You build your confidence.

“We started with a couple of family members and we would go out every weekend to rural areas like Malvern Hills and the Peak District. During the summer we would go to areas like Snowdonia when the days are longer.

“On most weekends we have five to ten people coming with us. It started with a couple of people and now we have a whole community.

“The reason we do it is because we want to enjoy the countryside and rural areas of the UK – people need to get out more because they do not know what they are missing.

Shahid Mir has been hiking for over 10 years and started a YouTube channel to share their experiences.

“When I started hiking and saw all these beautiful places it was a complete revelation. I did not even know these places existed.”

Shahid said hiking would be difficult through Ramadan but will be finding other ways to keep active during the month of fasting. Muslims must fast from sunrise to sunset for around 29 to 30 days. After 30 days comes the celebration of Eid.

“When we go hiking it’s normally a day out so we will take be taking a break during Ramadan as it can get very tiring. But there are other ways to keep active like walking every evening along the River Cole.”

Muslims pray to mark the first day of Eid al-Adha at the main square in Nusseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip, on Friday, September 1, 2017

1.Eid al-Fitr is one of the most important Muslim festivals in the Islamic calendar and marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. It takes place at the start of the next month, Shawwal.

2.Celebrate Eid, the one-day celebration of Eid al-Fitr in Birmingham’s Small Heath Park, sees as many as 140,000 Muslims joining in a single congregation – but this event has been unable to take place during the coronavirus pandemic

3.Islamic religious festivals are based on the moon’s cycle. This is different from the Gregorian calendar, which is based on the sun and used by most of the western world.

4.Eid, which means “festival of breaking the fast”, is a religious holiday and a day of celebrations when Muslims will give thanks to Allah, and exchange small gifts and cards.

5.People usually dress in new clothes or in their finest outfits for the day.

6.Eid al-Fitr begins on the first day of Shawwal, the tenth month in the lunar calendar, but usually carries on for three days. Muslims can opt for a further six days of fasting in this new month – these do not have to be consecutive. Anyone completing this is said to have completed the equivalent of fasting all year round. This is because Islamic tradition says that a good deed is rewarded 10 times – completing Ramadan and the six days during Shawwal, times 10, is a year.

7.Giving to charity is an important part of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr. This is usually donations of food to the poor so they too can enjoy Eid celebrations.

Speaking about whether being Muslim or from a South Asian heritage has ever been a barrier he said no, but understood the issues faced by other Muslim hikers and female Muslim hikers.

“Overall we have not had any negative experiences but we do occasionally get a look like ‘what’s going on here?’ But we just get on with it and majority of hikers are very courteous. All of our members are male so we want more women to get involved too and start their own groups. “

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