If you haven’t heard of Cris “Cyborg” Justino Venancio (formerly Cris “Cyborg” Santos), you need to look this badass woman up right now.
A decorated MMA fighter and UFC featherweight, Cyborg recently released a video of herself training while wearing a hijab. Along with the video, she released a statement of solidarity, not only with Muslim women, but women all over the world.
“One of the reasons I started my @pinkbeltfitnessprogram was because I saw a need to unite women of all religions, ages, and cultures in a way that they could empower each other and motivate one another to achieve more with a support system! I am a believer in Jesus Christ and and a devout Christian. I am wearing the Hijab, a symbol of modesty and protection used by many women around the world, not as a sign of religion but as a symbol of support for all women around the world.”
The muscular champion, given her nickname for her near superhuman fighting capabilities and relentless drive, gives this statement at exactly the right moment. As women in hijab the world over are taking up self-defense and martial arts classes to protect themselves against attack, Cyborg sends a message not only of interfaith solidarity, but of universal, sisterly love.
With her short, simple message, Cyborg aims to encourage more women to take up combat sports while supporting a decidedly persecuted minority: Women in hijab.
She says, “The Hijab is not Anti-American, or terroristic; sadly those are misconceptions from those who are lacking cultural awareness and understanding. Combat Sports should be an opportunity shared by all!”
Cyborg’s remarks also recall the story of tiny tough-kid Amaiya Zafar, a young St. Paul Minnesota boxer unable to compete while wearing her hijab due to uniform regulations.
In her own small way, Cyborg spurs girls and women to fight. Fight for inclusion. Fight for faith. Fight for your identity and your security. Fight to include the hijab as part of the fabric of the American tapestry.
Ever-so fittingly, Cyborg seeks to further make her quick demonstration accessible to Muslim women by sparring with an Arabic-speaking partner, even ending her video with “shukran,” or “thank you.”
From Muslim Girls everywhere, “Shukran” to you too, “Cyborg.”