Words by Smiley Team
A group for Muslim hikers is encouraging a community to get out into the outdoors and to support each other.
Haroon Mota set up Muslim Hikers during lockdown for anyone feeling lonely who perhaps didn’t feel confident enough to go hiking alone. Since then, it has grown into a community of hundreds of people across the UK who meet up regularly for outdoor hikes.
When setting up the group, Haroon was very aware of how few members of the Muslim community get involved in outdoor activities, and hoped the community might change that.
“Our events encourage safety in numbers, and help promote confidence and awareness of the outdoors," Haroon says. “Often people who haven’t hiked before lack motivation or simply don’t know where to start or how to get involved. Our events inspire people and allow them to join in with the knowledge they’ll be in safe company.”
Only around 1% of national park visitors are from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds – and there are many reasons why that might be.
Haroon has spoken himself about how different "lifestyle and cultural norms" might prevent Muslim people from pursuing outdoor activities. But there are also other barriers, including the perception of the countryside as an “exclusively English environment” with a tight-knit community of white, middle-class visitors.
In this environment, Muslims or other individuals of ethnic-minority communities can feel hyper-visible and excluded from experiences like hiking.
There is certainly strength in numbers, and Haroon’s hiking community has encouraged many Muslims to hike for the first time. On Christmas Day 2021, more then 130 people joined together for an early morning hike in the Peak District.
After posting photos of the trip in the Derbyshire and Peak District Walks Facebook group, the group did receive some negative comments, but the majority were supportive and Haroon says the group will keep walking.
"Over the last two days we've seen solidarity from the wider community," said Haroon at the time. "That's the true spirit of the outdoors and it is a small minority who want to make things difficult for us."
Whilst the important focus is to try and support the Muslim community, everyone is welcome on the hikes led by Muslim Hikers Group. Recently the group completed their first big hike of 2022 in the Peak District, with another event scheduled in March in the Yorkshire Dales.
“Muslim Hikers has grown so rapidly that I've had to leave my full-time job in order to pursue new opportunities here," Haroon tells Smiley News.
“I'm excited about where we will end up next. Keep following Muslim Hikers and see what the next chapter is.”
GET INVOLVED: You can join the Muslim Hikers on Facebook.