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Zahra Lari, the ‘Ice Princess’ in the hijab

Zahra Lari

Whether it’s sporting a burqini or fashioning a stylish costume for figure skating, Muslim women are finding creative ways to compete in sports without compromising observance of their faith.

Zahra Lari, the ‘Ice Princess’ in the hijab

By Emmanuel Barranguet (AFP)

CANAZEI, Italy — From the sand dunes of the Rub al Khali desert to the snow-capped peaks of the Dolomites in northern Italy, Emirati teen Zahra Lari made figure skating history this week.

The 17-year-old not only became the first figure skater from the Gulf to compete in an international competition but the first to do so wearing the hijab, an Islamic headscarf.

“In my country women don’t do much sport and even less figure skating,” the quietly-spoken teenager told AFP after competing alongside skaters from 50 countries in the European Cup.

A practising Muslim, her black headscarf and sober costume, stood out among the flashy orange tutus and fluorescent pink tights.

“I skate with the hijab, my costume is in line with Islamic tradition,” she explained.

“The other girls are very nice to me. I think they accept me very well. I haven’t had any problems, people are open. It’s not a question of an exhibition, but of sport and my father is in agreement.”

Lari’s American-born mother Roquiya Cochran admitted that it had taken some time to convince her husband to let their daughter compete.

“I had to convince him. In the beginning he saw it as his daughter dancing in front of a male audience

“But he came along to watch, he saw how beautiful she was on the ice, and he loves her, he wants her to be happy. She’s covered, she hasn’t done anything anti-Islamic.”

Lari explains that her love of the ice began when she watched a Disney movie at the age of 11.

“I watched The Ice Princess over a 100 times, I loved it! I said to myself ‘That’s what I want to do’.”

Three years later she realised her dream when she pulled on her first pair of skates at the Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi where she met her coach Noemi Bedo.

“Promising skaters usually start aged 3 or 4 years,” explains Romanian Bedo.

“But she’s very talented, she’s very powerful and jumps higher than the others. I also believe in the Olympic Games,” added Bedo, of Lari’s dream of competing at the Winter Olympics.

The European Cup in Canazei does not have the stature of the ISU Grand Prix events and Lari did not compete at the world junior championships last February, but she nevertheless finished in the top 15.

“This has been an incredible learning experience and I am happy to have been able to show what I have learnt in the last few years,” she said.

“I may not have the competition experience that the other skaters have but I feel that I held my own and look forward to participating in future competitions.”

“For Sochi (2014 Winter Games) I’m giving 100 percent, I can do it. Otherwise I’ll try for the 2018 Games,” she said.

She certainly has the determination, getting up six days a week at 4:30 to practice before her day begins at the American International School.

“I’m on the ice until 7:30 and at 16:00 I’m back skating for an hour and a half. It’s not difficult, I love that, and I want to succeed.”

Apart from wanting her own success, Lari added: “I want to encourage girls from the Emirates and the Gulf to achieve their dream too and not to let anyone tell them not to do sport, not only figure skating but all sports.”

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  • fahim shaikh

    Zara Lari is looking so cute & pretty in hijab i love her
    because she is in hijab
    i love hijabi girls.
    i’m so proud of you zara………..
    you are great.

  • fahim shaikh

    i love hijab & hijabi girls.inshaALLAH i will marry with hijabi girl.i advise to all my Muslim girls please wear hijab.

  • Black Infidel
  • Generation MuslYm

    @ Islam Muslim/Muslim Islam,

    I think you guys are rely too much on what the scholars say and they are not the ultimate deciders. In the end I believe God is the ultimate judge and as long as this girl or others like her have faith in their hearts, that will count big time. I do not think it is fair that you should be jumping all over her, you have no moral right to determine her religious convictions based on what she is wearing. It is that self-righteous attitude that has caused many sisters to turn their backs on the community simply because they did not adhere some insecure Muslim man’s view of the dress code. Please remember this the same religion in which a prostitute can enter heaven for filling her shoe with water for a thirsty dog. Good deeds account way more than bad ones in Islam.

    Plus, wehat this girl is wearing compared to other Muslimah wear in the middle east is actually modest. In fact, Muslim girls dress more accordingly to the Islamic dress here in the west than I’ve seen in countries like Jordan and Egypt. At least be happy she has the courage to compete while wearing her hijab. And what is wrong with girls playing or competing in sports? Where in the Qur’an does it forbid that?

  • Isa

    I like the article about a figure skater from the Gulf, and how passionate she is about the sport she competes in. There, comments back on the actual topic of the article.

  • Jack Cope

    I am troubled by some of the comments by fellow Muslim men here; as has been pointed out it is the duty (as detailed in the Quran) of both men *and* women with a lot of the responsibility going to the men to keep their eyes down. If you can’t keep yourself feeling aroused by clothing in some major way every time you see something mildly ‘sexy’ then may I suggest you are at fault, not the women!

  • Michael Elwood


    I’ve seen women with the formfitting cat suit and hijab. LOL! I agree that that combination of clothes is self-defeating. But, at the end of the day, I think what muslimahs do is more important than what they wear. That was my point in quoting 7:26 to Islam Muslim.

    wa ‘alaykum salaam

  • Michael Elwood

    @Islam Muslim

    “You say her clothes are Islamically acceptable? According to whom? Almost ALL genuine Islamic scholars would deem her clothing to be unIslamic and not acceptable as it clearly reveals her figure.”

    Who are these “genuine” Islamic scholars? The ones who agree with you? And if her clothes are Islamic and acceptable to God, does it matter what these “scholars” deem Islamic and acceptable?

    “The only people who claim this type of clothing is acceptable are the ones who have a seriously misguided interpretation of Islam, or ultra liberal Muslims, the likes of Dr Taj Hargey.”

    I’m not seriously misguided, ultra liberal, or Dr Taj Hargey. Now, let’s discuss the actual merits of your claims (which you conveniently avoided). Have you ever seen a hijab (which your “genuine” scholars define as a head cover) that covers a woman’s figure? Have you ever seen a jalbaab (which your “genuine” scholars define as an outer garment) that covers the head and face? What does the Quran 7:26 mean when it says: “the garment of righteousness is the best”? Is the “garment of righteousness” better than the “outer garment” your “genuine” scholars promote? If she wore the “garment of righteousness” that God promotes, instead of the “outer garment” that your “genuine” scholars promote, would you deem it Islamic and acceptable?

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