An award-winning sports activist, athlete and community organizer, Shireen Ahmed is one of the women who created the Burn It All Down, a podcast that parses sports culture through an intersectional feminist lens. Shireen is on the advisory board of Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) and helps refugees use football (read: soccer) as a vehicle for resettlement.
We were curious about what propelled her towards sports activism, so we asked.
SDTC: What was it that inspired you to become a sport activist? Was there a particular incident? Or was it a slow build?
SA: It was definitely a slow build. I spent years coaching young Muslim girls, then as a Settlement Counselor, I used sports as a tool to help young women. It came together when I saw that Muslim and racialized girls just needed more amplification and affirmation from within the community and from outside. Becoming a sports writer was the next step. I love sports and there were voices that were desperately missing from mainstream sports media.
What is making you feel positive right now, when it comes to equity in sports?
I see the attempts to start conversations, to exchange ideas and perspectives. I am grateful for people being open to fresh perspectives, and for the platforms that I have such as the podcast I co-host ‘Burn It All Down’ (BIAD), and for TEDxToronto. There are a lot of incredible people working in sports and sports media. I am very positive about allyship and about folks collaborating to make the world of sports a safer and more inclusive place.
Where are you currently focusing your attention?
I think that continuing to write and report on Muslim women beating systems of oppression including hijab bans, or other barriers to participating ( i.e. Open Stadiums in Iran) is where my expertise lies. I am familiar with those stories and have been following them for years. I believe I shall continue to do it.
As part of a team like BIAD, I continue on the path to challenge misogyny, racism and other forms of bigotry in sports and sports media.
In short, what does the TEDxToronto theme RISE mean to you?
RISE is using your skill to challenge barriers in the path of progress. To band with others, and face the difficulties. It also means to elevate oneself, whether that means joining a movement, or showing solidarity. That takes integrity. To be better, as people and as a community.
What mantra is currently helping to guide your journey?
There is one guiding principle that I have always stuck to. When someone acts like there is no room at the table, my response is: Then let’s build our own fucking chair.
Ahmed will be one of many illuminating speakers at this year’s TEDxToronto, coming up soon on Oct. 26th. BTW, tickets are now 90% sold out, so you need to get on this right now.