By Taniya Dutta
Powerlifting is a glamorous sport of showing one’s toned body and strength but an Indian dentist student has been breaking stereotypes by winning championships dressed in full-sleeved black leotard and a hijab secured around her head.
Majiziya Bhanu, 23, is the first Indian woman to have been participating in the bodybuilding competitions wearing a hijab.
The 23-year-old athlete from Kozhikode in Kerala in southern India recently won the title of the strongest woman in the Mr Kerala Championship organised by the Body Building Association-her first ever participation in such a contest.
Majiziya says: “It feels wonderful to be wining the title of the strongest woman. I was able to display my unique physique through the mandatory four postures and impressed the judges.
While many would think hijab is an obstacle in such a sport, Majiziya emphases that she feels confident and secured in her headscarf that she has been wearing since childhood.
“I am proud to be the Hijab Powerlifter. I feel special and proud of cladding my Hijab. It is a part of my lifestyle and I feel comfortable and confident wearing it. It is my identity.
“When I performed on stage wearing the headscarf I felt unique. I was even mentioned in the Indonesian newspapers as “The World’s first Muslim Woman Power Lifter Who Have Lifted Huge Weights Wearing Hijab”.
“I want to let the world know that the hijab is never an obstacle for a woman who wants to achieve the impossible.”
Majiziya was active in sports like long jump in school but only started training for the bodybuilding and powerlifting competitions a year ago after her fiancé Nour Ahmad encouraged her to pick the powerful sport.
Majiziya says: “I got into bodybuilding accidentally. It was my fiance who encouraged me. He showed me photographs of Muslim women with hijab, into bodybuilding from countries like Egypt. And I thought I can do this too.”
Born into a conservative Muslim society, Majiziya had to face a lot of difficulties but her parents Abdul Majeed, 48, and Rasiya Majeed, 47, never stopped her from dreaming big.
She said: “My younger brother is an athlete. He is a swimmer and plays volley ball. I was always interested in playing sports and my patents never stopped me from playing. They always encoyraged me just like my brother to fulfil my dreams.
“It wasn’t easy to go the gym. People would come to my home and advice my parents to not support my wishes. I had to explain to them what I was doing wasn’t wrong and I had the right to decide for my own rights.
“But I am blessed to have parents because they supported me and helped me fulfil my dream.”
Majiziya’s struggle did not end with facing troubles from the society. She had to also face challenges in finding avenues in her small village that lacked gymnasiums and coaches.
She said: “We lived in a village away from the city that doubled my challenges in terms of facilities available for training. I was so eager and enthusiastic to learn that my parents Abdul Majeed and Rasiya Majeed would often inquire about different sports in the nearby town for me.
“There were no facilities available. However, I never gave up; I did everything with what was available and would go out and explore when I got the chance to,” she recalls.
She was trained by Shamaz, her gym instructor for a year for the competition.
Speaking about her strength and determinations, Shamaz said: “She trains like a boy. I mean even boys don’t train like she does. She has given her everything. It’s not common to see women wearing hijab and training here. But she has overcome her difficulties and I am proud of her.”
Majiziya has ambitious plans for the future. She is looking forward to participating in the World Championships, be a good doctor and open a sports academy for talented children.
“I want to start a sports academy for children. I want to continue what I am doing and make my husband, parents and country proud,” Majiziya says.