Vastavam web: Leading Qatari woman athlete Mariam Farid, who competes wearing a hijab, says she would never compromise on her identity but would not mind blending a bit of fashion with religion. At a young age of 15, Mariam had played a significant role in Qatar winning the bid in November 2014 to host its first ever IAAF World Championships. As Qatar’s ambassador, she had delivered an emotional speech, convincing the panel to accept their bid which emphasised on breaking barriers and changing the western world’s perception about the Arab world.
Four years after that successful bid, Mariam is now preparing herself to deliver on the promise when Doha will host the Championships next year. To prove her point that running with her body covered, won’t compromise her speed, she cites example of Australian athlete Cathie Freeman, who became the women’s 400m Olympic champion in 2000 while running with full body-kit, her arms and head covered.
And she is not the only one who wears hijab. In 2016, when Kariman Abuljadayel became the first Saudi woman to compete in the 100 metres at the Rio Games, she also wore full body-kit. However, Mariam would like to modify the hijab, a must for women in many Islamic countries. Maybe 10 years down the line when she is done with athletics career, she wants to manufacture hijabs that would complement the beauty of a woman. “Recently Nike gave me a hijab. Whatever it is, but it looks bad (laughs). We need brands like Nike and Adidas to do (design) something beautiful for us.”
So how different the hijab, she wants to introduce, would be from the one worn now? “Beautiful. I should not look awkward. Just because I am wearing a scarf, it should not make me look less beautiful. It should be fashionable. Of course, religion and fashion can go together.” Coming from a family of seven, which has five doctors, Mariam says she does not feel pressure to perform before the home fans. However, the strong-willed hurdler says it is important to be confident because If you are not, people around you will try to break you.
“Not everyone wants to see you happy. Majority would want see you fail. I don’t want to sound arrogant but I am my own role model. I feel I can do whatever I want to do. I have my own goals and passion,” she said. “That’s my character. I don’t accept people telling me that I can’t do this or that,” said the communications student at Northwestern University in Doha.
Supremely-confident Mariam, coached by Tunsian Awatef Hamrouni, admits that she has flaws too. “I am not patient enough. This part is killing me. Coach says it will take lot of time (to do well in big championships). I am confident, one day, I will do something big. “400m hurdles is easy to succeed fast. I am tall and it helps me to jump easily. Jumping the hurdle is break for me from running. So I have a break at every 10 hurdles, It’s easy for me.” “Western world have this stereotype that we don’t do sport. We (women) sit at home, we are not allowed to move outside. It’s a perception and its wrong. Yes, it was not in our culture, 15-20 years ago but now we have strong teams, where a lot of girls are playing,” she said adding that they do train with boys too.