Saturday, November 10, 2007

Women in exercise as bridge-builders

I have always been interested in exploring the intersectionality of women's identities, across faith, race, ethnicity, and other lines of difference. I am especially encouraged by Muslim-Jewish women dialogue groups that seek to bring women together by exploring commonalities in faith, commonalities as women, and, of course, commonalities as women of faith. So, when I first heard that a Jewish female instructor, Jamie Kaplan, had joined Muslim female trainer Mubarakah Ibrahim at her fitness center in New Haven, I was heartened.

As background, Mubarakah Ibrahim is a covering Muslim female trainer who teaches everything from pilates to yoga to kickboxing -- all in a hijab (Muslim headscarf), long sleeve shirt and baggy pants! -- in her women-only Balance Fitness Studio down Whalley Street in New Haven, CT. This mother of four has reached Oprah-fame, even published a book on nutrition, and now, with the addition of Jamie's perspective and presence, made her center a comfortable space for both Muslim and Jewish women who have to similarly adhere to a modest dress code (which requires covering in public around non-related males). When this happened last year, headlines ran "Muslim-Jewish Relations Bridged with Exercise."

My favorite quote from Mubarakah:
"And no matter where you choose to worship, every woman wants to know, 'How do you get rid of cellulite?'"

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