Muslim woman who teaches kickboxing to females in Milton Keynes receives honour from the Queen

A woman who runs woman-only kickboxing and martial arts classes has been presented with a British Empire Medal.

Mum of four Khadijah Safari owns MK’s Safari Health Hub and Safari MMA, which she founded to teach women how to defend themselves amid rising hate crime and Islamophobia.

She converted to Islam in 2009 but vowed not to give up her passion for marital arts.

When she was unable to find a women-only club to train in, she made the decision to plough her £5,000 savings into setting up her own.

Khadijah Safar

A spokesman said: “ Women from all different backgrounds, cultures and socio-economic groups came together. Labels were left at the door and for once true equality was seen.

The group of women included victims of domestic abuse, lawyers and police officers, women of religious belief, and those from the LGBTQIA community,.

Over the past 10 years Khadijah has opened 10 more locations throughout Milton Keynes, Birmingham and London, making a name for herself as a Muslim woman doing martial arts.

Her spokesman said: “It was baffling to Khadijah as she had grown up as a ‘British majority’ and was suddenly being seen as an ‘ethnic minority’. She had no idea that women from different cultures were so disconnected from even with the thought of doing sport, let alone actually participating in it.

Khadijah Safari received her medal from the Countess Howe

“She led successful advocacy campaigns and communications, so the right conversations were being had, not just to speak to individuals but to generations of misguided cultural beliefs. If you can change the mindset of the older generation, then you can lay a pathway for the younger ones to walk proudly with their sporting achievements.”

In 2020 lockdown shut and Safari’s gyms had to close. Khadijah promptly implemented a system that allowed members to access online classes.

She developed and launched programmes, working alongside local organisations, including mental health prevention for women, sessions for inactive children and youth from lower socio-economic groups, with a strong focus on the BAME communities, and youth programs for those facing homelessness or financial challenges.

Khadijah was awarded British Empire Medal (BEM) in this year’s New Year's Honours List for her hands-on contribution to diversity and inclusion in martial arts.

This month she was presented with the medal by the Lord-Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire, Countess Elizabeth Howe.