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England’s first hijab-wearing int’l cricketer Abtaha Maqsood

By Imran Munawar & Saima Haroon
August 04, 2021

BIRMINGHAM: Abtaha Maqsood, 22, is Britain’s first hijab-wearing Muslim female to play international cricket and she wants other young British Muslim girls to take up cricket who due to cultural or religious barriers are not able to do so.

Abtaha, whose parents are originally from Lahore, Pakistan, was born in Glasgow on June 11, 1999, the day when Pakistan beat Zimbabwe to qualify for the semi-finals of cricket World Cup played in England & Scotland.

Abtaha Maqsood, who’s currently playing for Birmingham Phoenix in the new short format 200-ball cricket tournament “The Hundred” in England, started playing cricket as a little girl in the back garden of her house with her father and brothers. She was just 11 when she joined local cricket club “Poloc”. She was selected to represent Scotland’s under 17 against Ireland in a T20 where who she took her first wicket for the U-17 too.

Speaking to Geo News at Edgbaston Cricket Stadium in Birmingham, Abtaha said inspiration behind her playing cricket are her parents and brothers as she had complete family backing in this connection. Abtaha termed her father the most amazing support throughout her sporting career.

“My dad and my mom are both big cricket lovers, they love sports. But my dad in particular is so important no matter what sport you chose. You always have to make sure that you’re healthy as it’s important for your mental and physical health”. Besides playing cricket Abtaha Maqsood also got a black belt in Taekwondo at aged 11 and has participated in British and Scottish championships too. She said she never thought of choosing cricket as a career path at that time. But the experience of playing cricket so far has been amazing for her.

Abtaha told Geo News she started wearing hijab when she was 11-12 after watching her mother start wearing it and it was completely her own decision. In fact her parents did give her the choice to not wear hijab as she was very young at that time but she was really insisting on wearing it.

“Wearing a hijab was my own choice. I went for Umrah when I was 11; my mom started wearing a hijab when we were on the plane back. So I asked her why was she wearing that and told her that she likes to wear it as well,” Abtaha said.

“It was really important for me at that time as it is now and I will continue wearing it”, she further added.

Abtaha is a third year student at Glasgow University studying dentistry. She said currently she’s managing her time between her studies and playing international cricket for Scotland and now “The Hundred” as she loves both dentistry and cricket. It’s quite tough for her at the moment but she’s trying to give her hundred percent to both.

To a question that should people talk more about her cricketing skills rather than what she choose to wear, Abtaha said she thinks it in a way it is important that people are talking about her hijab as it’s the representation which matters.

“Because this is the first time people have really seen a woman wearing a hijab and playing cricket at the highest level so I think it’s still important to be talked about”.

“I never really had a role model who looked like me when I was growing up. I think that would have really helped me and given me a sense of belonging. So hopefully I can be that person for young girls now,” she added.

She told Geo that although she never faced any cultural barriers but she is aware that there are barriers out there for other young Muslim girls. She wants to be inspiration for those girls. “I really hope that when people see me they can see that it is possible to play cricket and wear hijab at the same time. And there are people out there who can support young girls through it if they really want to play cricket at high level or any sport at high level”. Abtaha is a leg spinner but she didn't start as a spinner in fact she used to be a fast bowler when she was a minor.