Social media posts recounting a Christmas day walk up Mam Tor organised by the group Muslim Hikers received a series of derogatory comments last weekend. In response, the outdoor community rallied to support the group and condemned the views of the 'racist minority' in their attempt to exclude ethnically diverse walkers from the hills.
The not-for-profit community interest group was founded by Haroon Mota during lockdown to inspire Muslims to get outdoors and prevent social isolation for people of all faiths and ethnicities. More than 130 walkers of varied backgrounds from across Yorkshire joined the group's third-ever organised walk at Mam Tor on 25 December.
Photos depicting a successful day out were on the receiving end of negative comments with racist undertones. One comment on a post in a Facebook group named 'Derbyshire & Peak District Walks' read: "PATHETIC. Go back to what you did before the pandemic and leave this place alone for the proper walkers."
"Proper Walkers"!? 🤔 😮 Just some of nasty comments received after images of our Xmas Day hike were shared on a Facebook group called 'Derbyshire & Peak District Walks'. #MuslimHikers #OutdoorsForAll pic.twitter.com/X8SA5MBT5F— Muslim Hikers (@Muslim_Hikers) December 27, 2021
Another commenter claimed that the backlash was not racially motivated, but dismissed the dedicated walking group as "turists" (sic): "Nothing to do with race… stop being so narrow minded. There are ppl that walk everyday and respect nature and then there are the "turists".. turists are less likely to respect nature."
Founder Haroon Mota told UKC/UKH: "As a group, this is the first time we've encountered abuse, and even though it's online we can see there was a lot of it. Yes, it's a minority but there was still a lot of it."
Mota continued: "Personally, I've never at all felt out of place when I'm outdoors. I've never had any abuse or faced any prejudice. However, I understand and totally appreciate why many of my counterparts have a perception of the outdoors being a white domain, which is unwelcoming with the threat of 'standing out' and being susceptible to racism and prejudice."
Mota explained that these events offer 'safety in numbers' for participants: "People will always feel more safe when among people they can relate to and those they feel comfortable with. By organising group events, this builds confidence which they can take back home to their families and communities so that they can hopefully feel more empowered and independent in future."
He added: "This type of racist behaviour only makes it more problematic for those who feel less empowered to get outside and enjoy natural spaces."
Muslim Hikers addressed the abuse publicly. The group's Instagram post read: 'It's horrible seeing comments like this, but it only gives us further justification and motivation to continue our work. It's the reason why we set up Muslim Hikers. We know it's only a small minority of people who think this way but we've seen plenty comments highlighting the problems within our community that exist.'
The group has since received the support of 4,000+ additional followers on social media, many of whom condemned the abuse in comments:
'I'm so sorry you got these responses. Your photos are brilliant, it looks as though people loved it. I do hope you keep enjoying it and can ignore the racist minority.'
'Solidarity! The one thing there isn't space for outside is these attitudes.'
Mota told UKC/UKH. "We've had such an overwhelming amount of support from the wider community since the weekend. The number of messages and Tweets we've had is very overwhelming. This is the true spirit of the outdoors."