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Khadijah Vakily on her motorcycle in Cornwall. Khadijah Vakily on her motorcycle in Cornwall. Frank Burelle

When one thinks of the word “hijabi”, it is not often followed by the word motorcyclist. Except that in my case, it is.

Cornwall, Ontario has a population of 46,000, with an even smaller Muslim community. Everyone in the Muslim circle knows everyone, which means that most people know about me and my two-wheeled ride…the motorcycle that I’ve now had for two years.

My dream of getting a bike dates back to my days in Muslim elementary school, when an older student conducted a class survey about what other students considered their important life goal. The simple response, from my third grade mind, was to say that I wanted to travel around on a motorcycle.

My teacher thought my mother would be alarmed by this answer and might want to consider some early “intervention.” My mother just brushed it off, saying “Oh yeah, her dad puts these things in her head, he’ll have to deal with it.”

No surprise then, years later, when the opportunity presented itself and I had enough money that I followed up on that “important life goal.”

When I broached the idea with my parents, their responses were mixed.

I pitched it to them individually, starting with my mother.

Why get an off-road vehicle when we can get a motorbike that is more practical? I can use it to get to work without taking one of the always-in-use cars. Saves on gas. Wouldn’t take up much parking.

Surprisingly, my mom was the easy sell. As long as I was safe, wore proper protective gear, and followed the driving rules she was fine with it.

So I brought the idea up with my dad.

“Where is this coming from?” he said, shocked and seemingly blindsided.

“Uh…you, actually. Remember how when I was a kid you used to tell me how cool it would be to have a motorcycle and that I should get one and we could ride together?” I mumbled back.

“What? Who said that? I said that? I don’t remember saying that.”

Needless to say, he was not nearly as enthusiastic. But after several days of discussion and negotiating, I got the green light.

I know of many female riders and several Muslim female riders, but not many who are actual hijabis—an act that some might not think possible to fit under a helmet. On the contrary, I haven’t had much difficulty accomplishing this, both with a full helmet and a half helmet.

So how does one balance motorcycle-riding with being a modesty-conscious Muslima? Quite easily.

I still dress modestly. I don’t wear the tight leather pants so often associated with biker chicks—and to be honest, I find leather far too hot anyway. If you’re not going to wear actual sportswear-level pants, jeans are considered the bare minimum in terms of safety. While technically nothing besides a helmet is considered a legal requirement, keeping safe is a must.

In terms of apparel, I usually wear half-boots, a short skirt and an armoured jacket. Other times I’ve worn summer dresses or long shirts that nearly come down past my calves, and of course the ever-present hijab.

I’m fairly serious about safety with my passengers. Everyone needs to wear a helmet, preferably thick pants and a jean jacket, and proper footwear. No flip flops on this bike ride. I do have to admit that I do go a bit above the speed limit from time to time along empty country roads, free from the traffic and obstacles of city driving.

Because I often ride to work, my clothing choices also reflect this. I usually don’t have time to change into another outfit, so I wear an outfit that will presentable for a professional environment. If it’s not something I consider acceptable from an Islamic standpoint, I don’t wear it.

Many people within the Muslim community may question if my motorcycle riding is appropriate with my Muslim lifestyle, to them I say I don’t see any reason that our religion would forbid it. It is no different than riding a horse, which is encouraged as Sunnah for both men and women.

Since I can also drive a car, the following are really the only considerations I think about when it’s practical to ride my motorcycle.

Valid reasons for not riding my bike:

If I want to eat or drink tea while I’m driving

If I have a lot to carry

Long highway/freeway trip

Very bad weather

Invalid reasons for not riding my bike:

Someone I know might see me

Someone might see me and tell someone else that they saw me

It seems for some, the main concern with a Muslim woman riding a motorcycle would be people’s judgement about the matter, to which I pay no mind. Having a consistent approach in all areas of my life doesn’t leave me in a situation where I succumb to double standards, which makes it easier for me to be confident in my choices and firm against the potential for negative feedback.

The instances where I have been asked about my ride have all been positive. Several times my friends’ fathers will come out of the house to ask me questions on the bike’s engine size, make and model or maximum speed. I have yet to hear any comments about parents being afraid that horror upon horror, I am influencing their children to also want a motorcycle.

I don’t think of myself as a trend setter; I like driving a motorcycle. At the same time I think it is cool. If I didn’t think it was cool, I probably wouldn’t be doing it. 

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Read 5807 times Last modified on Thursday, 08 October 2015 22:13
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Khadijah Vakily is a journalist residing in Cornwall, Ontario. She has been working for the past four years as a professor at St. Lawrence College's Cornwall campus, and enjoys freelancing in the fields of writing and videography.