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ICONIA: Bringing History into the Future

First Muslim Girl Competes on AAU National Karate Team in the United States

Aprar Hassan has been breaking barriers after the World Karate Federation approved the use of hijabs in their competitions.

aprar hassan

Second-generation Egyptian-American Aprar Hassan has been breaking barriers in the United States as the first Muslim girl to fight on the Amateur Athletic Union's (AAU) USA National Karate Team, all while keeping her hijab on.

Hassan grew up in Brooklyn, New York. Her father, Yasser Salama, had competed on the Egyptian national karate team before he moved to the US in 1996. Hassan is the only daughter alongside her three brothers, all of whom were taught karate by their father. Hassan got into karate early in her life, having started lessons at the Muslim American Society by the age of 3, and competing in US national competitions by the age of 5.

Hassan won her first title in 2017 when she was 14, at the AAU Karate National Championships in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Aprar Hassan competes with an athletic cap and a white turtleneck under her regular karate uniform, which is seen as unusual in the United States. The World Karate Federation had only approved of hijabs being worn in their competitions in recent years. Hassan still comes across difficulties due to her dress; she was nearly disqualified for wearing the white shirt beneath her robes by a judge at the World Championships in Scotland before Hassan explained that she wore it for religious reasons.

"I don't really care how people see me," Hassan said, according to NBC News. "It's more like I care how I see myself."

Hassan aims to compete at the 2024 Olympics after developing her skills at more international competitions. The 2020 Olympics in Tokyo will be the first time karate can be played at the games.


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