Kochi The audience at a bodybuilding contest in the southern Indian city of Kochi last week was awestruck when 23-year-old Majizia Bhanu appeared on stage covered head to ankle in a burkini-style modesty suit in keeping with the dress code she adheres to.

The shock disappeared in minutes as the student studying for her graduation in dental surgery smiled and flexed her toned muscles, which rippled under her body-hugging suit. The crowd cheered, clapped and gave her a standing ovation. Some whistles went out too in admiration. Bhanu went on to win the women’s title in the Mr. Kerala bodybuilding competition, beating five contestants in the final. And she won many hearts along the way. Bhanu is a natural sportswoman, but she said bodybuilding was an accidental decision. I am active in power-lifting, but never thought of bodybuilding. My husband encouraged me to participate in it. Initially, I was a bit reluctant, but he gave me strength, said the final-year graduation student at the Institute of Dental Sciences in Mahe.

Husband Nour Ahmed Kohan Alizaey, an American-Afghan, suggested she should try her hand in bodybuilding when she was on her way to Alappuzha to participate in a bench press competition some time ago, said the woman in a black hijab with a pink scarf around her head. Bhanu won the 52kg silver in the Asian powerlifting championship in Indonesia in 2017. Her skills in this physically demanding sport along with a few tips from male bodybuilders helped her conquer the contest in her maiden entry in the Kochi competition.

Her choice of sport, which demands to show her physique, has not had any conflict with her religious propriety thus far, she said. My identity is my hijab. I feel proud and happy wearing my hijab. When I was doing my powerlifting in Indonesia, some newspapers said I was the first sportswoman who lifted huge weights wearing a hijab. For everything she does, Bhanu’s appearance in hijab has a strong message because this woman from Orkatteri, a small village in Kozhikkode district, had to overcome several social hurdles since her early years in her pursuit to become a sportswoman. Being a girl or a Muslim doesn’t matter. What you need is an undying passion. I want the world to know the hijab is not a stumbling block. I want women to be gutsy and take up all challenges in their life, she said.

In school, she was a sprinter but shifted to powerlifting and weightlifting as she grew older. Her parents were supportive, but many people warned them when I started going to the gym, she said. I got tired of explaining to them. But when they realized my love for sports, they came around. I personally feel whatever men can do; women can do too. Bhanu said she had to pay for her travel and other expenses when she participated in international events. The finance bit pinches, although that won’t deter her from the goal of winning the 52kg powerlifting world title. Neither would the hijab.

Source: International Islamic News Agency