NOTTINGHAM – A British Muslim has become the first hijabi boxing coach, inspiring many Muslim women to come forward and practice the game.
She said: “I have to pinch myself every time someone comes up to me and says ‘because of you I’ve had the strength and they’ve made me feel better about myself’,” Zahra Butt told Ealing Times on Monday.
“It’s always been about giving back and helping others and helping them get over their hurdles that they’re facing in life.”
Butt’s journey with boxing started four years ago when she decided to practice the sport when she suffered from a post-natal depression.
After losing four stone while boxing, Butt is running her own classes and is the first Muslim woman wearing the hijab to have been made an ABA [Amateur Boxing Association of England] boxing coach.
“I always tell the people in the class that they’re my inspiration. To see what so many of them have been through and go through that journey,” she recalled.
“You see somebody who has no self-belief and struggling and seeing their progress is very humbling.
“If I look back to where I started I’ve gone leaps and bounds. Sometimes you look at your own journey and feeling like you haven’t done enough, and I think I’m my own worst critic.
“I feel like there’s so much to be done in helping people realize their own potential and creating a society where we’re all equal regardless of your gender, ethnicity or religion.”
Recently, the Muslim coach received an award of £2,000 as part of the initiative to have regional winners rewarded for using the power of sport to improve the community they live in.
The mum-of-three was rewarded with a trip to the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham where she got to meet sprinting sensation Dina Asher-Smith, who has won three gold medals at the European Championships, who handed over the cheque.
“It’s been absolutely sensational to come to Birmingham. I couldn’t have ever dreamed of a day like this. Meeting Dina Asher-Smith, she’s such an amazing athlete and she is such an amazing person and listening to her story as well,” she said.
“I couldn’t believe that she thought I was an inspiration, I nearly fainted! It was so surreal. I cannot put it into words. It’s very humbling to listen to her and for her to say such nice things about me is incredible.”
Asher-Smith said that the world of sport needs people like the Nottingham boxing coach.
“It’s essential that we recognize people like Zahra because the work she does and how selfless she is and give her time and her focus and commitment to the community, that is what sport itself is built on,” she said.
“If it wasn’t for people like her people’s lives wouldn’t be as enriched. I firmly believe she’s a more than worthy winner and it’s been an absolute privilege for me to be able to give her the award. It’s great to recognize her as part of the people’s podium.”