Muslim Hikers Is Changing the Face of Outdoor Exploration In Pursuit For Inclusivity

Hypebeast catches up with community member Najwa to explore her hiking journey featured in Arc’teryx’s ‘No Wasted Days™’ campaign.

Sports 
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The allure of the outdoors can be felt now more than ever before. With a rise in community initiatives dedicated to learning adventurous sports or experiencing the wilderness, the vast planes of the outdoors have become less of an intimidating space, and instead, an inviting escape that can be explored in a variety of ways.

UK-based collective Muslim Hikers has been at the forefront of this inspiring movement. Founded two years ago by Haroon – who currently works with the brand as its ambassador – the group invites Muslims and minority individuals to come together and embark on hikes across the British countryside, aiming to break the daunting preconceptions of the outdoors by “taking off that layer of natural anxiety.” With a close-knit group, it relies on a sense of community to create a safe space for curious hikers to feel at ease in their surroundings.

In a new installment of Arc’teryx’s ongoing No Wasted Days™ campaign, the collective’s inclusion-driven pursuit goes under the spotlight through the perspective of Najwa. Taking up hiking during the pandemic as a way to de-stress from the challenges of her healthcare job, Najwa joined the group to get familiar with the outdoors amongst the security of her peers. Now, as a regular attendee at the treks, she shares what it means to seize new possibilities whilst simultaneously setting a new normal for Muslims in the outdoors.

Delving into her story, Hypebeast catches up with Najwa to find out how she’s found a new lease of life in the hills and why she encourages more minority individuals to combat their fears of the outdoors.

Hypebeast: How did you find out about Muslim Hikers?
Najwa: I came across a post on Instagram actually. At the time, I had just started hiking with my friends and so my feed was full of hiking-related content. When Muslim Hikers popped up, I thought it looked really interesting but I initially got cold feet so I asked my friend to come with me. The hike was super close by – I live in Birmingham and it was in the Peak District so just an hour and a half away. What was even better was that they were offering car sharing. I don’t usually book group hikes because they’re quite far out, and if there isn’t a train nearby, I’m not able to get there. With this, there was no excuse.

How does hiking help relieve the stress that comes with your demanding job as a microbiologist?
When I was on the front line, I was one of very few people going to and from work on public transport. Most people started working from home and schools were closed. It was quite isolating being on your own in a very high pressure environment that I was working in. I got very detached from normal life especially because I was working in a hospital and couldn’t interact with many people. After a year, I just felt like I had to get out there. Hiking was a great option because I didn’t feel intimidated by it and I really enjoyed it. It took me to new environments which I wouldn’t usually visit.

How does the ethos of No Wasted Days™ resonate with your hiking journey?
I remember doing a random midweek hike. It was slightly more intense because it was the one day I have off from work and I spent it hiking but I didn’t feel like I wasted my day. I could’ve easily used the day to relax but I was doing sport and that really felt like a shift of mentality. That was the moment where I felt the ethos of No Wasted Days™. Sometimes you feel like the day is twice as long because you wake up early and go for a hike, yet you are still left with so much time.

Why does sharing a safe space with like-minded Muslims give you confidence on your hikes?
The demographic is different in the countryside. If you are going on hikes by yourself, you tend to stick out, so being with a bunch of people that look like you just makes the whole experience so much easier. We could be praying or talking about halal restaurants and there are no questions asked. It takes off that layer of natural anxiety.

How does being in the outdoors make you feel grounded?
In terms of your faith, there’s a massive incentive for Muslims to get outside. It gives you this new perspective on life. When we get stuck in a routine, you can get a bit complacent so when you get out into this new space, your problems feel smaller and you feel this levity in your soul. You can breathe deeper and think clearer. For me, I look out into the beautiful scenery and I think about my surroundings as God’s creation. That connection becomes deeper in the moment. To be able to experience this with friends is also really special.

Why do you think it’s important for Muslim Hikers – and collectives that champion minorities – to exist today?
There are two answers to this question. From an outsider’s perspective, if you aren’t Muslim, you might be more judgemental than you think. Seeing a group of Muslim hikers may make you confused and you may question why we are in these surroundings. But, I think it’s good to question things, it helps people develop their views. Through Muslim Hikers, we invite people who aren’t Muslim to join us because the exposure helps them understand who we are which combats Islamophobia on a grander scale.

For me, it cuts through the anxiety. I am Muslim and I feel proud to be part of this group. It’s a different form of confidence when you step out into the outdoors and just be Muslim with your chest. It’s nice to be who you are in a place where you may feel like you aren’t accepted but 9 times out of 10 you realize that most people are lovely. I’m combating my assumption that I don’t fit in and other people are also combating their perception that I shouldn’t be here. It’s the easiest way to get people talking together rather than spreading hate online.

No Wasted Days™ is a celebration of the different paths to the mountains, and a call to action to get outside and create change. Through spotlighting inspiring journeys, Arc’teryx aims to reflect the brand’s ethos that there’s always a better way.

Explore more No Wasted Days™ stories here.

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